Relatives file lawsuit against police for fatally shooting Sangerville man in 2011

Crime scene tape flies in the wind at the Piscataquis Valley Fairgrounds on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011. Michael Curtis was gunned down by police at this location the day before after shooting and killing Udo Schneider.
Kevin Bennett | BDN
Crime scene tape flies in the wind at the Piscataquis Valley Fairgrounds on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011. Michael Curtis was gunned down by police at this location the day before after shooting and killing Udo Schneider.
By Alex Barber, BDN Staff
Posted July 09, 2013, at 6:54 p.m.

DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — Relatives of the man who shot his wife’s ex-husband to death and in turn was shot and killed by a Maine State Police trooper are suing members of the state police, the Dexter Police Department and the town of Dexter.

Michael Scott Curtis, 46, left his Sangerville home after an argument with his wife on Nov. 29, 2011, and went to Hilltop Manor in Dover-Foxcroft, where his wife’s ex-husband, Udo Schneider, was working, according to authorities. Curtis shot Schneider, 53, to death and then traveled to the Piscataquis County Fairgrounds, where he eventually was shot and killed by Trooper Jon Brown.

Margaret Curtis, who died in January, originally filed a notice of claim in May 2012 for wrongful death against the Maine State Police for fatally shooting her husband.

This week, Michael Curtis’ daughter Cassie Curtis and Margaret Curtis’ brother Mathias Poulin filed a civil lawsuit against Brown and Maine State Police Col. Robert Williams, Lt. Col. Raymond Bessette, Maj. Gary Wright, Dexter Police Chief Kevin Wintle, former Dexter Police Chief James Emerson and the town of Dexter.

Bangor attorney Hunter Tzovarras filed the lawsuit in Piscataquis County Superior Court on Monday.

The suit claims Brown used excessive force and assaulted Michael Curtis. It also claims Wintle, Williams, Bessette, Wright, Emerson and the town of Dexter used excessive force against Curtis. Dexter police were among the authorities that went to the fairgrounds in pursuit of Curtis.

The suit requests compensatory damages, punitive damages and attorney fees. It does not give a dollar figure, however, the claim filed last year by Curtis’ wife sought monetary damages in excess of $1 million.

Tzovarras sent an email Tuesday declining to comment on the suit.

On July 9, 2012, the Maine attorney general’s office released a report in which it said the use of deadly force was justified against Curtis.

In the report, it states that Curtis was armed when he was shot by Brown.

The lawsuit filed Monday claims that Curtis was unarmed when Piscataquis County Sheriff John Goggin approached Curtis to get him to surrender. Curtis worked as a dispatcher for the Sheriff’s Department.

Assistant Attorney General William Fisher said on Tuesday that Curtis’ .40-caliber Glock semiautomatic pistol was on top of a cover that was over the bed of his pickup truck and within arm’s reach when Goggin was approaching.

“The complaint cherry-picks the facts out of the attorney general’s report,” Fisher said on Tuesday. “It didn’t disclose any of the facts that led to the use of deadly force by Trooper Brown. So if you compare the facts in the complaint with the facts in the attorney general’s investigation, you’ll see there’s a tremendous amount of information that’s been left out.”

Fisher said his office has 30 days to accept the complaint and 60 days after that to either admit or deny each of the 105 allegations. The case likely will be transferred to federal court, he said.

On the morning of Nov. 29, 2011, Michael Curtis left his Sangerville home after having an argument with his wife.

Curtis drove to Hilltop Manor in Dover-Foxcroft, a nursing facility, where he shot and killed Schneider of Sangerville. Schneider had two children with Margaret Curtis before they were divorced.

Michael Curtis then drove to the Piscataquis Valley Fairgrounds where police converged on him. Maine Drug Enforcement Agent David Wilson heard Curtis fire four shots while at the fairgrounds. According to the attorney general’s report on the incident, Wilson concluded that Curtis fired all four shots into the air.

Sheriff Goggin had established contact with Curtis and was walking across the field unbeknownst to Trooper Brown, who yelled to Curtis to show his hands. When Curtis failed to do so, Brown fired three shots at Curtis with his rifle. The shots missed Curtis and struck his truck. Curtis fired another shot from his pistol into the air at that time, according to the attorney general’s report.

Brown talked with other officers at the scene and then repositioned himself along with current Dexter Police Chief Kevin Wintle in a wooded area north of Curtis’ location. Goggin had resumed walking toward Curtis and was about 150 feet from him when Brown shot Curtis with his rifle.

“At the time of the shot [that killed Curtis], Mr. Curtis was still armed and was looking in the direction of Sheriff Goggin,” states the attorney general’s report.

Curtis was taken to a local hospital where he died a short time later.

According to the attorney general’s report, Curtis’ pistol had seven live rounds in it at the time of his death. It was determined that he had reloaded his gun after killing Schneider. Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Margaret Greenwald also determined that Curtis had a blood-alcohol content of 0.216 percent.

Brown was placed on administrative leave after the shooting and since has been reinstated.

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/07/09/news/piscataquis/relatives-file-lawsuit-against-police-for-fatally-shooting-sangerville-man-in-2011/ printed on December 25, 2014