November 18, 2018
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Suspect in Dixmont standoff in critical condition after being shot by police

A man who fired at police during an 18-hour armed standoff in Dixmont is in critical condition at a Portland hospital after he was shot by police Friday morning, authorities said.

After Michael Grendell, 61, fired at officers who formed a perimeter around his home on 2 Fox Lane, police drew him outside by detonating an explosive that partially destroyed his house, said Col. John Cote, Chief of the Maine State Police. Grendell emerged with a firearm, and was shot at around 9:45 a.m. when he refused orders to put it down, police said.

No police were injured during the standoff.

“Our hand was forced in some ways by Grendell’s continuing to engage in shooting from his residence,” Cote said in a press conference. “At a certain point, we needed to take steps to protect our officers and the neighbors.”

The standoff began Thursday after a close friend told police that Grendell — apparently in the throes of a mental health crisis — shot at him unprovoked the night before, according to the friend and a police affidavit.

Grendell was flown Friday morning to Maine Medical Center in Portland, where he remained in critical care Friday afternoon, Cote said. Det. Christopher Harriman, Trooper Caleb McGary and Trooper Andrew Hardy fired shots at him Friday. It wasn’t immediately clear how many times he was shot.

Grendell has been charged with criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon and reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon — crimes that stem from a confrontation on Wednesday when Grendell allegedly shot at his best friend during an unprovoked interaction, said Marianne Lynch, assistant district attorney for Penobscot County.

The friend, Lee Bell, 53, reported the shooting around noon Thursday, which drew police to Grendell’s house on a rural lane in the small Penobscot County town.

The night before, Grendell reportedly showed up at Bell’s Lear Lane home around 8:45 p.m., and questioned Bell about a UPS package that had just been delivered the he believed was for him. Bell ran inside his house when Grendell, who was carrying a wooden mace, displayed a handgun holstered on his right hip, Maine State Police Trooper Jeremy Caron wrote in an arrest affidavit.

Grendell and Bell have known each other for three decades — they were best men at each others weddings — and both moved to Dixmont from Houlton at the same time in the 1980s to install television satellite dishes, Bell told the BDN Friday afternoon.

But for the past three months, Grendell — described as a hardworking man who held a variety of blue collar jobs over the years, including a 13-year stint at Job Corps teaching young people maintenance skills — started mentally drifting, Bell said. He became grouchy, behaved oddly and, two months ago, suddenly quit his job. He lost 75 pounds, Bell said.

On Wednesday, Grendell snapped, Bell said. After the weird incident with the UPS package, Grendell left, and Bell drove his truck to Grendell’s house to check on him, he later told police, according to the affidavit.

When Grendell saw his friend pull up, he got into his own truck and chased Bell back to Lear Lane, shooting at Bell six to eight times with a firearm, according to the affidavit. The gunshots missed Bell, who found bullets lodged in his car and house after Grendell eventually returned to his own home.

Bell didn’t report the shooting Wednesday because he feared for Grendell’s safety and well-being, especially if police got involved, he said.

But at noon Thursday, Bell decided to call the police to report the incident because he “want[ed] to help Grendell get help,” the affidavit stated.

Trooper Caron and another state police sergeant went to contact Grendell at his home on Fox Lane, which is near North Dixmont Road, and asked him over a loudspeaker to come out of the house. Grendell came out with his hands up, then went back inside, the affidavit stated. He reportedly didn’t respond to additional calls to come out of the house.

That refusal drew several dozen members of the state police tactical team, bomb squad and crisis negotiators to his home.

“Despite our best efforts to de-escalate the situation, on several occasions our members were met by gunfire,” Cote told reporters at a Friday press conference.

Grendell exchanged shots with members of the state police tactical team after officers attempted to contact him using robot, Cote said. Grendell shot “multiple rounds” at police, striking the robot and an armored vehicle.

As the night drew on, Grendell continued to randomly shoot bullets inside his house, Cote said.

“We really considered all the options available to us, all the resources that we have, the skill sets that we have,” Cote said. “We try and avoid that deadly force option.”

When he still refused to come out of his house on Friday morning, police decided to change their course. Using a robot, police placed the explosive into the house, a large portion of which crumpled in the blast that neighbors said they could feel rumble the ground, said Patti Easton, a Dixmont EMT who was on standby nearby to the scene.

Grendell emerged from the rubble with a baseball bat, Cote said. He dropped it, “but picked up a firearm, ignoring commands not to do so,” he said. “At this time, Grendell was shot.”

The Attorney General’s office is investigating the incident, which is protocol whenever a law enforcement officer uses deadly force. The three troopers who fired their weapons have been placed on paid administrative leave, which is also standard procedure.

Grendell is expected to face further charges related to the standoff, Lynch said. Given his injuries, was not immediately clear on Friday is he would be able to to appear court in court Monday at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor, as expected earlier in the day.

On Friday afternoon, Bell, a construction worker, struggled to get back to work as he tried to make sense of the past three days, and the months of Grendell’s behavior that appeared to build up to them.

“It’s hard to believe it all ended this way,” he said.

BDN writer Caitlin Rogers contributed to this report.

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