A federal judge this week dismissed two of three police officers from an excessive force lawsuit filed by the mother of a woman killed along with a suspected burglar more than two years ago in Vassalboro.
U.S. District Judge Lance Walker on Tuesday granted motions to dismiss Vassalboro Police Chief Mark Brown and Maine State Police Lt. Scott Ireland from the litigation.
Maine State Police Trooper Jeffrey Parks, whose gunshots struck and killed Ambroshia “Amber” Fagre, 18, of Oakland, is the remaining defendant. Kadhar Bailey, 25, of Gardiner also was killed in the Feb. 10, 2017, incident.
The Maine attorney general’s office ruled in March 2018 that the officers were justified in their use of deadly force. That investigation found that Ireland shot and killed Bailey and that Fagre’s death was accidental.
Amber Fagre’s mother, Jessica L. Fagre, 40, of Augusta, sued the officers in early February. She sought unspecified punitive and compensatory damages and claimed her daughter was “an innocent bystander.”
Attorneys for Ireland, Brown and Parks filed motions to dismiss the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Bangor over the following month.
In his 17-page ruling, Walker found that Amber Fagre, who was seen by Ireland in Bailey’s truck, told police she was waiting for her boyfriend to return. Bailey, the judge wrote, was suspected of tying up a nearby homeowner at gunpoint and ransacking the house. After speaking with the woman, Ireland went to the home in search of a suspected armed burglar.
When Brown arrived to assist, he stayed with Amber Fagre and the Dodge Durango in which she was sitting. Brown saw Bailey approaching with a gun, drew his own firearm and ordered Bailey to stop, Walker said.
“Despite Brown’s commands, Bailey continued to approach Brown, Ms. Fagre and the Durango and Brown took cover on the driver-side hood of the vehicle while Ms. Fagre remained seated in the passenger seat of the vehicle,” the judge said. “Brown then fired his gun at Bailey and took cover behind a nearby snowbank. Bailey returned fire, got in the Dodge Durango, and began to drive the vehicle. Brown fired another shot at Bailey.”
Parks arrived on the scene to the sound of gunshots just as Ireland returned to the scene, Walker found. As Bailey drove toward Parks’ cruiser, Parks allegedly fired several rounds into the Durango, which stopped when it crashed into Parks’ cruiser.
“Armed with a patrol rifle, Lieutenant Ireland approached the driver side of the Durango,” Walker said. “When he observed Bailey reaching for something in the vehicle, Lieutenant Ireland fired a shot at Bailey, killing him.”
Amber Fagre suffered a serious gunshot wound but was conscious and aware of her injury. She died later that day at a local hospital.
Walker found that Brown and Ireland were immune from prosecution because their actions were not “so egregious, so outrageous, that it may fairly be said to shock the contemporary conscience,” the legal standard for finding law enforcement officers at fault.
“Brown did not create the danger for Amber Fagre, Mr. Bailey did when he failed to submit to arrest,” Walker said.
Portland attorney Kasia Park, who along with Edward Benjamin, represent Brown, said Thursday that Brown lawfully used deadly force against Bailey.
“Chief Brown was faced with an armed felon who threatened to use deadly force and actually did fire at him,” she said. “It was the decisions made by Bailey that increased the threat against Ms. Fagre.”
The judge said that he could not dismiss the claims against Parks without additional information. That could be obtained when motions for summary judgment are filed this fall.
Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Bolton, who represents Ireland and Parks, declined to comment on the case. It is the practice of the attorney general’s office not to comment on pending cases.
Jessica Fagre’s attorney, Hunter Tzovarras of Bangor, did not immediately return a request for comment on Walker’s decision.
Walker tentatively set a trial date in early December.