Letter carrier cleared in pepper spray case

Posted Oct. 02, 2009, at 10:26 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 12:12 p.m.

DEXTER, Maine — A federal investigator has concluded there was no wrongdoing on the part of a Dexter postal carrier who pepper-sprayed a small dog last month while on her delivery route, according to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

The postal carrier is back at her job and no disciplinary action was taken, Bernadette Lundbohm, a U.S. postal inspector, confirmed Friday.

“We take these allegations very seriously because the letter carriers and, of course, the postal clerks are the face of the Postal Service,” Lundbohm said. That is why the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, which is a federal law enforcement agency, did a joint investigation with the Maine State Police, she said.

“There’s two sides to every story and our investigator spoke to both parties and interviewed both parties and this is what the outcome was,” Lundbohm said.

The longtime postal worker, whose name was not released, doesn’t want to speak to the press, postal authorities said.

The federal investigation was launched after Caitlin Wintle of Dexter called police on Sept. 12 and reported that her postal carrier had pepper-sprayed her 8-month-old Chihuahua and also sprayed her daughter, Kelsey Wintle, 7, who had gone to the dog’s rescue.

“I’m angry,” Caitlin Wintle said Friday of the investigator’s decision. “So she can just come on my property, do what she did and get away with it.”

Wintle said last month that she and her daughter had been standing at their front door getting ready to take out the garbage when they let Allie, their dog, outside.

She said Allie was on the lawn of their property as the postal worker rounded the corner of the house. When the dog started barking, the female postal worker sprayed it repeatedly with pepper spray, according to Wintle. She said her daughter ran down to pick up Allie and when she did, “Kelsey got the pepper spray in her face because the woman kept spraying it.”

Tom Rizzo, the U.S. Postal Service spokesman in Maine, said last month that Wintle’s dog, which was barking and baring its teeth, was not restrained when the carrier rounded the side of Wintle’s property. He said the carrier, who was bitten last year by another dog, was afraid for her safety.

Since the incident, Wintle said, her daughter has had trouble with her eyes from the pepper spray and has been seen by doctors about 10 times. The pepper spray got into her eyes and infected them, Wintle said. Her daughter also continues to have trouble sleeping, although it isn’t as bad as it was, she said.

“I’m just so angry when I look at my daughter’s eyes every day. She is on two different eye antibiotics and it’s been several weeks. It should have cleared up by now,” Wintle said.

Wintle also faulted state Trooper Larry Anderson, who initially responded to her call, saying that he never filed a report about the incident with the district attorney.

Contacted Friday, Anderson said he had not concluded his investigation until this week and he expected to file a report early next week. He said he was not recommending that any charges be brought against the carrier, but pointed out that any decision on that would be made by the district attorney.

Anderson accompanied the postal inspector to Wintle’s home for a subsequent interview regarding the incident, according to Wintle. She said she was told that the postal worker had been given a polygraph test.

“All I wanted was an apology or for her to be disciplined,” and neither came, Wintle said. Instead, Wintle said, her family has been victimized further. She said the Postal Service will no longer deliver her mail and she has to pick it up at the post office. “They treat us like garbage and throw the mail on the counter when we ask for it,” she said.

“We’ve had to pay for what she [the carrier] did to us,” Wintle said. “This whole thing has cost my family, and this woman is free to do her job.”

dianabdn@myfairpoint.net

876-4579

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