FORT FAIRFIELD, Maine — A Fort Fairfield couple is requesting millions of dollars in damages after they say police used excessive force and made threats against them during an arrest in October 2018.
The case was filed by Jesse and Deanna Murchie in Maine U.S. District Court on Aug. 21 against the town of Fort Fairfield and Fort Fairfield Police Department, along with several current and former town employees. Jesse Murchie is seeking $10 million in punitive damages and $5 million in compensatory damages in a jury trial. The Murchies are being represented by Bangor-based attorneys Laurence Willey and Ezra Willey.
The allegations come amid a nationwide protest movement opposing police brutality that has emerged since the death of George Floyd during an attempted arrest by Minneapolis Police on May 25. Allegations of police misconduct against County law enforcement have been rare, with police forces having a positive reputation even among local activists seeking police reform nationwide.
Jesse Murchie accused Fort Fairfield Police officers of using multiple unneeded violent tactics against him, including excessive tasing, kneeling on his back and forced catheterization to obtain a urine sample. Deanna Murchie accused police of inflicting emotional distress by using excessive force against her husband in front of her and threatening to report her to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.
While six different incidents were cited, most of the 14 charges in the lawsuit resulted from an arrest that occurred on Oct. 7, 2018. Two Fort Fairfield Police officers — Edward Dubie and Ryan Eagles — attempted to stop Jesse Murchie near his home for speeding, squealing tires and loud exhaust, according to court documents.
Jessie Murchie did not stop as he was “afraid of the police” because of recent harassment — the lawsuit alleges three incidents in the preceding two weeks including times when officers entered Jessie Murchie’s property and stopped his car for tinted windows and loud exhaust, according to the lawsuit.
Jesse Murchie returned to his home, where officers attempted to arrest him. The lawsuit alleges that Dubie’s body camera footage shows that the officers did not read Jesse Murchie his Miranda Rights, falsely accused him of resisting arrest and proceeded to unnecessarily tase him multiple times.
An officer allegedly held his knee against Jesse Murchie’s back as he laid face down on the ground, causing multiple injuries. Dubie claims that Jesse Murchie was being combative, court documents said.
The plaintiffs also alleged that Dubie made multiple threats against Jesse Murchie’s family — he is cited as allegedly telling Deanna Murchie to “get in the house, I’m calling DHHS on your kids,” presumably referring to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. Dubie also allegedly threatened to imprison Jesse Murchie’s father.
While an ambulance was present, the Murchies allege that Dubie held up medical care as he awaited a tow truck at the scene.
Jesse Murchie was later taken to Northern Light A.R. Gould Hospital in Presque Isle. The lawsuit alleges that Dubie shut off his body camera and ordered medical staff to perform a forced penile catheterization of Jesse Murchie to attain a urine sample.
The plaintiffs said that two catheterizations occurred, as the first was unsuccessful, and that both constituted illegal strip and body cavity searches. The plaintiffs allege that Jesse Murchie suffered physical urological injuries from the incident along with psychological damage.
The lawsuit also alleges that Jesse Murchie suffered from mental disabilities that officers were aware of as they arrested him, and that they had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act through their use of excessive force and failure to provide Jesse Murchie appropriate mental health assistance at the scene.
Jesse Murchie would eventually plead guilty to failure to stop and refusal to submit to arrest after the confrontation with police, while other charges were dismissed. Jesse Murchie said the incident led him to be fired from his job as an assistant manager at Daigle Oil Company.
Fort Fairfield Police Chief Shawn Newell said he and Fort Fairfield Town Manager Andrea Powers were unable to comment on pending legal cases.