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A man and woman who were shot more than a year ago in Machiasport by a Marine Patrol officer have filed a civil lawsuit against the officer, alleging he used excessive force and violated their constitutional rights in the incident.
Jason M. Jackson, 35, had his left arm amputated above the elbow after the Dec. 9, 2017, shooting at the home of Tiffany Smith, 34, who also was shot in the incident. Named as defendants in the lawsuit are Marine Patrol Officer Matthew Carter, who shot the pair, and Washington County Sheriff Barry Curtis, Marine Patrol Col. Jon Cornish and the government of Washington County.
Police went to Smith’s duplex looking for Jackson after a warrant for his arrest was issued earlier that day following a reported home invasion in East Machias. An East Machias woman told police that a man whom she identified as Jackson allegedly entered her home on Main Street with a handgun and demanded money, police have said.
Jackson is Smith’s former boyfriend, and their two children were in the duplex during the shooting but were not hurt, according to Don Brown, Smith’s attorney.
Jackson was “in the midst of a mental health crisis,” according to the complaint, and though he had brought an unloaded revolver with him to Smith’s home, the gun was not within Jackson’s reach and was “clearly visible” to Carter as the officer approached the pair.
Smith was trying to calm Jackson and grasped his hand with one of hers and held his belt loop with the other as she sat on the floor, according to the complaint. Jackson was on his knees, leaning over Smith, and “repeatedly made requests of law enforcement that he be permitted to speak to a crisis worker” while Carter was “mere feet away” pointing an AR-15 rifle at Jackson and Smith, according to the complaint.
“Jackson is a man of slight nature, and Smith is more than capable of overpowering him,” the plaintiffs’ attorneys wrote in the complaint.
Nonetheless, Carter opened fire with the rifle “without warning or provocation,” firing at least seven shots toward Jackson and Smith, according to the complaint. The document does not say how many times Jackson or Smith was struck by the fired rounds, but says both were struck and suffered “serious injuries.”
Washington County District Attorney Matthew Foster, who is prosecuting criminal charges against Jackson, has said that Carter told investigators that Jackson had grown agitated and reached for his gun before he was shot.
The civil complaint seeks unspecified monetary damages due to “medical expenses, pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and permanent impairment” incurred by Jackson and Smith as a result of the shooting.
Betsy Fitzgerald, county manager for Washington County, on Thursday directed inquiries on the lawsuit to the county’s attorney, John Hamer of Bangor. A message left Thursday morning for Hamer was not returned.
Jeff Nichols, spokesman for the Maine Department of Marine Resources, said Thursday that the department and its Marine Patrol division have no comment on the lawsuit.
Jackson is facing nearly a dozen criminal charges in Washington County Unified Criminal Court in Machias as a result of the incident, including multiple counts of burglary, robbery, criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon and reckless conduct, among others.
A voicemail message left Thursday morning for Jackson’s criminal attorney, Matthew Erickson of Brewer, was not returned.