A Dixmont man who was shot by Maine State Police after they blew up his home with a robot bomb in June 2018 has sued the law enforcement agency, seeking to bar it from ever bombing or shooting another citizen again.
Michael Grendell, 62, has named 18 members of the Maine State Police and one member of the state Attorney General’s office as defendants in a civil lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Bangor that seeks to prohibit state police from “further interference of the rights” of citizens through bombing or shooting.
Grendell is also seeking financial damages from the state in connection with the 20-hour police standoff that ended the morning of June 29, 2018, with the explosion of his Fox Lane house and resulted in him being shot in the face and torso. Grendell spent two months in the hospital after the incident, used a feeding tube, and suffered hearing loss and cognitive damage, according to the lawsuit, which requests a jury trial to assess Grendell’s claims.
The 58-page lawsuit asks the state to cover Grendell’s medical expenses, lost wages and earning capacity, and attorneys’ fees. It also requests general damages for what the lawsuit calls a violation of Grendell’s constitutional rights and assault and battery against him.
In December, Grendell filed a notice of claim — a first step before a lawsuit in state court — seeking $120 million in damages.
Grendell is represented by Bangor attorneys Laurence and Ezra Willey and David Bate. “This is probably one of the most complicated excessive force cases I’ve ever had,” Laurence Willey said Thursday.
Marc Malon, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office, which would represent the state police in court, declined comment Thursday.
Grendell was in the midst of a mental health crisis June 28, 2018, when a neighbor called police to report that Grendell had shot at him the previous day. The neighbor, Lee Bell, told police he waited to notify them because he was worried Grendell was at risk of being shot by police.
A state neuropsychologist who later examined Grendell said that he “had been suffering from a significant mental health decomposition for several months,” according to the lawsuit.
When the first officers arrived at the scene, they used a PA system to call Grendell out of his house, according to the lawsuit. He exited wearing only his underwear, muttered something about the officers not being “the real police” and went back inside. Later, Grendell stepped out of a door holding a handgun and a dog by its leash, with a Civil War replica rifle strapped on his shoulder.
Grendell activated his truck’s alarm a couple times during the standoff and, at one point, fired a gun inside his house after police used a pole arm attached to an armored vehicle to break a window, according to the lawsuit.
Col. John Cote, chief of the Maine State Police, said that officers shot Grendell after the 20-hour standoff when they drew him out of the house by detonating an explosive and Grendell continued walking toward them with a firearm. It was the first time police in Maine detonated explosives using a robot to end a standoff.
Grendell pleaded no contest in October 2018 to one count each of reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon and criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon, both Class C crimes. He was sentenced to three years in prison with all but the time he had already served suspended, and four years of probation. He spent the time served at Maine Medical Center in Portland recovering from his injuries and in treatment at Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta.
Throughout the 20-hour episode, police acted with “reckless disregard” toward Grendell because they knew or should have known he “was suffering from severe mental health issues,” the lawsuit reads. Because Grendell’s mental illness constituted a disability, the lawsuit says, police discriminated against him and violated his constitutional rights.
“No reasonable officer or supervisor could have concluded that robot/bombing Michael Grendell’s home and person and then shooting him in his further disabled state, were in any way constitutionally or legally justified,” the lawsuit reads.
The lawsuit also accuses police of assembling the explosive device that leveled Grendell’s A-frame house “in a defective and unreasonably dangerous condition” because it was “overcharged with excessive explosives” that caused more damage than police intended.
Police initially sought to knock down a wall so they could see where Grendell was inside his house. Instead, the house collapsed when police detonated the bomb.
A New Hampshire State Police Tactical Team with members trained in dealing with people in mental health crises was in Newport, Maine, less than 15 minutes from Grendell’s house, when police detonated the bomb, according to the lawsuit. Maine State Police had requested the team’s help.
“The conduct of Defendants was so extreme and outrageous as to exceed all bounds of decency and it must be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized society,” the lawsuit reads.