‘Outrage’ at vicious beating spurs Howland community meeting

Charles Gardner makes his appearance via video feed at Penobscot Judicial Center on Monday, Aug. 20, 2012.
Charles Gardner makes his appearance via video feed at Penobscot Judicial Center on Monday, Aug. 20, 2012. Buy Photo
Posted Aug. 23, 2012, at 6:06 p.m.
Henry McKinnon
Penobscot County Jail
Henry McKinnon
John McKinnon
Penobscot County Jail
John McKinnon
Brandon Summerson
Penobscot County Jail
Brandon Summerson

HOWLAND, Maine — Town leaders will hold a special public meeting Tuesday to allow residents to vent fears and outrage at the vicious fight on Aug. 17 that left two men with broken facial bones, broken ribs and missing teeth, Town Manager Jane Jones said Wednesday.

The public meeting to begin at 6:30 p.m. at the town office was scheduled because residents have been “galvanized” by the crime, Jones said.

“It has galvanized people who want to see Howland return to a peaceful, more secure community,” Jones said Wednesday. “There was a great deal of very legitimate outrage that something as callous and destructive of human beings could occur here. I have heard more expressions of just complete shock at this than anything else.”

Brandon T. Summerson, 21, of Enfield; Charles W. Gardner, 20, of Howland; and brothers John T. McKinnon, 21, and Henry R. McKinnon, 27, both of Howland, each have been charged with two counts of aggravated assault in connection with the fight, which took place down the street from where the brothers live.

The two victims, who are 30 and 31 and both of Howland, were severely beaten. The Bangor Daily News is withholding their names because they are the apparent victims of a crime and have not been charged with any violations. State police said in an affidavit that the fight started over money used to buy beer instead of drugs.

Bloody sneakers and an identification card left at the scene linked Henry McKinnon to the crime. The four men eventually admitted participating in the fight, state police said. The McKinnon brothers each posted $10,000 bail following a court appearance in which a judge set several bail conditions. Summerson and Gardner remain in jail on $10,000 bail. They are due to appear at the Bangor Judicial Center on Oct. 12, a jail worker said Friday.

The conditions bar any of the accused who are bailed from contacting the victims and each other, and from possessing alcohol or illegal drugs. The men also will be subject to random searches and testing and have a court-ordered curfew that requires them to be home between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m., the judge stated.

Penobscot County Sheriff Glenn Ross and state police Lt. Wesley D. Hussey, commander of the Orono barracks, have been invited to the meeting to discuss police response to the violence.

Howland has endured “a bit of a lawless summer,” Jones said.

The fight was the worst, but not the first incident involving drug activity in Howland. Much of it supposedly occurs in a park in the town center with complaints about drug activity there going back years.

Howland pays the Sheriff’s Department about $12,000 annually for extra patrols beyond what the town gets in regular coverage. The town has paid for extra patrols since the fight, Jones said.

State police also will patrol Howland or go through town on their way to patrol areas or calls. Lincoln police and other municipal public safety services also provide mutual aid on calls when needed.

The Board of Selectmen will likely discuss the fight at a regular warrant meeting at 1:30 p.m. Friday at the town office. The public can attend, Jones said, but she encouraged residents who want to discuss the fight to be at Tuesday’s meeting because that’s the meeting police will attend.

“The main focus [of Tuesday’s meeting] is to give people a chance to express their concerns, to innumerate some of the things that have gone on,” Jones said. “We will be trying to organize our thoughts [at Friday’s meeting] to go into Tuesday.”

Selectmen aren’t expected to vote to take any action Friday, but that could occur Tuesday, Jones said.

Residents should understand, Jones said, that police face many challenges in covering Howland. Sheriffs and state police patrol the state roads and unincorporated areas in Penobscot County, including towns such as Howland that contract for their services. That makes Howland a small town in a large area.

Police also face some technological disadvantages, Jones said. Criminals with cellphones or police scanners can instantly alert each other whenever officers are seen, dispatched to or report themselves in or on their way to town.

But the meeting can be a great catalyst for change because crimes like Friday’s can bring a community together, Jones said, in a way that other events seldom do.

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