LINCOLN, Maine — A reserve police officer sent to a West Broadway motel to help evict a guest found himself wrestling with the man in the snow on Christmas Eve when the guest refused arrest, Police Chief William Lawrence said Tuesday. Officer Roy Bickford suffered minor injuries.
Terrance Fitzgerald, 51, a homeless man who has family in Lincoln, was charged with assault on a law enforcement officer, a Class C felony; failure to submit to arrest; and failure to appear in court. He was being held without bail late Tuesday at the Penobscot County Jail in Bangor, police said.
The incident began, Bickford said, when he received a call from Penobscot Regional Communications Center dispatchers about 3:35 p.m. Saturday reporting a disturbance related to an eviction at a motel at 92 West Broadway, near Family Dollar.
When Bickford arrived a few minutes later, he said he saw a man later identified as Fitzgerald arguing loudly with another man who said he was Fitzgerald’s brother. Fitzgerald’s family often has tried to help him by allowing him to stay with them, but Fitzgerald sometimes is unmanageable and the family has been forced to call police for assistance, Lawrence said.
“Terrance did all the yelling,” Bickford said Tuesday.
Just as Bickford was getting out of his cruiser, dispatchers told him that police in Wiscasset had an arrest warrant for Fitzgerald charging him with failure to appear in court on a charge of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.
Bickford said he tried to calm Fitzgerald and walked with him away from the crowd, gently explaining that he would be taken into custody. Bickford got Fitzgerald to put his hands on the cruiser, searched him for weapons and had a handcuff on his right wrist when the suspect suddenly tried to hit the officer in the head with his left elbow and pushed off the cruiser with his foot, Bickford said.
Bickford said he twisted the handcuff on Fitzgerald’s wrist and tried to put him on the ground with a controlled takedown. With several witnesses, the two struggled and Bickford yelled for help into the shoulder microphone of his portable radio. The handheld portion of the radio went sliding on the ice during the melee and was transmitting only car to car, but dispatchers already had called for backup and Maine State Police Trooper Thomas Fiske heard the clamor.
“I’m 30 seconds away,” Fiske radioed.
Penobscot County Sheriff’s Deputy Michael Knights radioed that he was also on the way.
Fitzgerald, Bickford said, managed to elbow him in the side of the face, breaking Bickford’s glasses, before the officer got him under control. Fiske was just pulling into the motel parking lot when Bickford got Fitzgerald handcuffed. Knights arrived shortly thereafter.
“I was very pleased to see them,” Fitzgerald said.
The officers secured Fitzgerald with leg cuffs to prevent damage and further injury, said Bickford, who was grateful at how fast dispatchers and the other officers responded to his distress.
“Dispatch,” Bickford said, “was perfect.”
Fitzgerald is due in Bangor District Court on March 15 to answer the assault charge and in Lincoln District Court on March 20 to answer the failure to submit charge, police said.