Jury begins deliberating in case alleging excessive force by Bangor police officers

Posted Aug. 15, 2014, at 11:58 a.m.
Last modified Aug. 15, 2014, at 2:46 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Deliberations began about 11:30 a.m. Friday in a federal civil trial over two Bangor police officers’ alleged use of excessive force when they arrested an Aroostook County man more than two years ago in the parking lot outside a dance club.

Samuel G. Cyr, 28, of Moro Plantation sued Officer Joseph Baillargeon and Deputy Chief Brad Johnston in February 2013.

Cyr was arrested after an alleged altercation with his then-girlfriend after Barnaby’s, the defunct bar and dance club at the Ramada Inn, closed for the night. He was charged with domestic violence assault, assault and failure to submit to arrest. The Penobscot County jury found him not guilty on all charges in April 2012.

In the civil suit, filed by his attorney, Hunter Tzovarras of Bangor, Cyr is seeking about $9,000 in legal fees for his criminal defense, nearly $600 in medical bills and unspecified damages for pain and suffering and emotional distress. He also is asking for unspecified punitive damages.

The trial began Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Bangor.

U.S Magistrate Judge John Nivison instructed the jury of five men and three women on Friday that they first must decide unanimously if it is more likely than not the officers used excessive force or not. Jurors are to consider each officer’s liability separately.

If the jurors decide that the officers used more force than they reasonably needed to use to arrest Cyr, then, the jury must decide what amount of monetary damages to award. If the jury finds excessive force was used, it must award at least $1 in damages, the judge said in his instructions.

Baillargeon approached Cyr on Dec. 3, 2011, in the hotel parking lot on Odlin Road after two men told the officer they had seen a man choking a woman, according to court documents. The officer approached Cyr from behind because he matched the appearance of the man described by witnesses.

Cyr claimed that Baillargeon took hold of his wrist from behind but did not identify himself as a police officer, he told jurors Thursday. When Cyr pulled back on his arm, Baillargeon pushed Cyr into the side of a van, on which he struck his head, then, his legs were swept out from under him, and he landed on his face on the pavement. Johnston came to assist his fellow officer, and the three men wound up on the ground.

Johnston believed that the force he used was reasonable “because he observed Cyr resisting arrest and/or struggling with Officer Baillargeon,” the deputy chief testified Thursday.

Cyr suffered a cut on the head and superficial scrapes and bruises during his arrest, according to photos taken by his uncle less than 24 hours after the incident. Cyr sought medical treatment three days after the incident complaining of anxiety-like symptoms and insomnia, he testified. Cyr claimed he continues to suffer from those ailments.

In his complaint, Cyr also alleged that he was subjected to false arrest and malicious prosecution. Nivison in February granted the officers’ summary judgment motion and dismissed the false arrest and malicious prosecution claims.

 

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