BANGOR, Maine — A Clinton couple has sued a police officer, his department and the town in U.S. District Court alleging that Randy Henry was falsely arrested last year for setting off a firework on his own property.
The disorderly conduct charge lodged against him in March 2013 was dismissed when the Kennebec County district attorney’s office declined to prosecute Henry, 48, according to the complaint.
Henry and his wife, Debora A. Henry, 47, are seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages and attorney’s fees.
Clinton Town Manager Warren D. Hatch on Tuesday declined to comment on the case because neither the town, the Clinton Police Department nor Officer Scott Francis has been served with the lawsuit, which was filed Sept. 30.
“The Henrys wanted to bring this suit because Officer Francis trespassed on their property, assaulted Randy when he arrested him, used vulgar language in front of family members and put Randy in jail for unlawful reasons,” Eugene Sullivan, the Bangor attorney who represents the couple, said Tuesday.
The events outlined in the complaint that led to Randy Henry being jailed overnight at the Kennebec County Jail began the evening of March 13, 2013, when Debora Henry, her mother and sister were at the Henry home on Mutton Lane, which is located half a mile from the nearest neighbor, baking for a baby shower for the Henrys’ daughter.
Henry and her sister “decided that they would celebrate the event by firing off a .357-caliber handgun four times (each took two shots) in her own backyard,” the complaint said. After the shots were fired, the women resumed cooking, while Randy Henry slept because his work shift at Bath Iron Works began at 3:45 a.m.
Shortly after the shots were fired, Francis arrived at the house between 7 and 7:30 p.m. and told the women a noise complaint by a neighbor had been made, the complaint said. The officer allegedly spoke to the women “in a loud and raised voice and came across in a threatening manner.”
After Francis left, Debora Henry woke her husband to tell him what had happened and that the neighbors, who have a history of making noise complaints, had called the police again, according to the complaint. Upset about the police “being called to the residence for no reason, [Randy Henry] set off an M-80 firework on his property” between 15 and 20 minutes after Francis had left.
M-80 fireworks are banned by federal law in the United States, according to information posted on the website for the state fire marshal’s office. No more than 50 milligrams of powder may be used in fireworks sold to the public. Henry was not charged with possessing or using illegal fireworks.
When the officer returned after a second noise complaint was made to police, Francis “forced his way into the home without a warrant,” the complaint said. The officer immediately grabbed Henry’s arm and moved him from the kitchen outside to the police cruiser where he allegedly pushed Henry against the cruiser door, then, placed him under arrest.
Henry was held at the Kennebec County Jail from about 8:30 p.m. until 6 a.m. March 14, 2013, when his wife posted bail, the complaint said.
The lawsuit claims that Henry never should have been arrested because the Maine Prosecutors’ Association “had advised each law enforcement agency, including Clinton [Police Department], that it is not a violation of the unreasonable noise provisions of the disorderly conduct statute to light fireworks within the limits established as reasonable by the Maine Legislature,” which includes the Henrys’ property.