The Knox County Sheriff’s office is investigating a report that several people with guns cut down a tree and used it to block a driveway Friday afternoon on Vinalhaven in an alleged attempt to quarantine the people who live in the residence.
The alleged incident appears to be related to the coronavirus outbreak.
The first call for assistance came in about 3:35 p.m. from someone who used a VHF radio system to call the U.S. Coast Guard for assistance in the area of Cripple Creek Road on the island, located about 15 miles from Rockland, according to information posted on the sheriff’s Facebook page. Someone who heard that transmission called the Knox Regional Communication Center.
The group that allegedly cut down the tree had left the area before law enforcement arrived, the posting said.
Rep. Genevieve McDonald, D-Deer Isle, said on her Facebook page that the victims were targeted because they are from out of state.
“There are two guys from [New Jersey], on Vinalhaven who have been renting a house since September while working on a construction job,” she wrote Saturday. “They went to the mainland and were targeted because of their license plate when they arrived back on Vinalhaven.
“There were some words between them and some locals and the conversation apparently didn’t go very well,” McDonald, who represents Vinalhaven, continued. “I did hear the guys from [New Jersey] were fairly arrogant in their response. A group of local vigilantes decided to take matters into their own hands and barricaded these guys into their rental property.”
A call to confirm those details with the sheriff’s office was not immediately returned.
McDonald criticized the incident as a “tremendous waste of resources.”
She also said that “now is not the time to develop or encourage an ‘us vs. them’ mentality.”
Deputies, along with members of the Maine Marine Patrol and a U.S. Coast Guard boarding party made contact with the complainant and found that a tree had been cut down and dragged into the driveway to block the way.
The sheriff’s office said there was not a specific threat to the general public.
Anyone with information about the alleged incident is asked to contact Lt. Reggie Walker at 594-0429, ext. 720.