“Somebody is going to die tonight,” a visibly agitated Anthony Lord told a close friend on July 16, 2015. Lord, a resident of Benedicta, Maine, was a registered sex offender who displayed symptoms of violent derangement. His anger had been kindled by a voice mail message from the Maine State Police reporting that a woman named Brittany Irish had accused him of sexually assaulting her, and asking him to visit a local barracks to be interviewed about the matter.
Lord’s entirely plausible threat was reported to Jaime Irish, Brittany’s brother. His frantic phone call to Brittany interrupted a conversation in her home with two Maine state troopers. They were discussing both Irish’s sexual assault complaint and her report that the barn at her parents’ home had been set on fire – most likely by Lord, who knew the family well.
Brittany’s initial relief at the presence of two officers sworn to “serve and protect” she was quickly transmuted into incredulity when the troopers refused a request to deploy officers to watch her and her two small children (who were visiting relatives at another location). Protecting a rape victim and her family against a credible murder threat from an assailant who was also suspected of carrying out a retaliatory arson attack was not a priority worthy of the man-hours it would entail.
Frantically grasping for whatever reassurance they could get, Brittany and her mother, Kimberly, asked if the police could leave a marked vehicle parked outside the home as a bluff. Even that was seen as an unacceptable expenditure of precious department resources that could be used for more important undertakings, such as traffic enforcement. Indifferently assuring Brittany that they would “keep an eye on the situation,” the troopers drove away.
The fire that destroyed the Irish family’s barn was not the beginning of Lord’s depredations. A few hours earlier he broke into the home of a Silver Ridge man named Kary Mayo, beat him, tied him to a chair, and stole his guns and a pickup truck.
Early the following morning, Lord shot his way into the Irish home, killing Brittany’s boyfriend Kyle Hewitt and wounding her mother, who suffers from multiple sclerosis. Brittany, who suffered a superficial gunshot wound to her arm, exited through a bathroom window and tried to escape, but she was chased down by Lord. When a 60-year-old local resident named Carlton Eddy happened by in a truck, Lord flagged him down — then shot the driver and stole his vehicle. After strangling her into submission, Lord tied the victim up with a seatbelt and sped away.
For reasons yet to be explained, Lord drove to a nearby lumber yard, where he shot two more men – Clayton McCarthy, who survived, and Kevin Tozier, who did not. As he drove away from the scene, Brittany pleaded with him to take her to the home of his uncle Carl, who was a mutual acquaintance. That Lord did so is another mystifying decision on his part. Displaying a flat affect and saying not a word about his actions, Lord “unloaded the gun like it was something that he was bound and determined to do,” his uncle later recalled.
Shortly thereafter, fourteen police vehicles surrounded the home and took Lord into custody. It is important to recognize that the police didn’t actually arrest the offender: That was accomplished by the victim and the suspect’s uncle. There was no official competence displayed in clearing this case and just as little valor. All of the risks were borne by the victims, at fatal expense to two of them. Once the danger had abated, the police were eager to take credit for delivering the suspect into the care of the criminal “justice” system.
It is a long-established principle that police officers and the agencies employing them face no specific or institutional liability when they fail to protect individuals from acts of criminal violence. Brittany Irish’s ordeal resembles that of the victims in the pivotal 1981 decision Warren v. District of Columbia in which the D.C Court of Appeals ruled that it is a “fundamental principle of American law that a government and its agents are under no general duty to provide public services, such as police protection, to any individual citizen.” (Emphasis added.)
In the earlier case, two women contacted police to report an assault on a mutual friend. Officers were dispatched to the address, but – in the interest of that holiest of all considerations, officer safety — declined to enter the apartment building. The desperate women called again, and this time, the department didn’t even bother to respond. Acting in the misplaced hope that help was nigh upon arrival, the women opened an apartment window and called out for assistance. This alerted the assailants, who abducted the women at knifepoint.
“For the next fourteen hours,” the court recounts in a clinical summary, “the women were held captive, raped, robbed, beaten, forced to commit sexual acts upon each other, and made to submit to the sexual demands” of their captors.
The victims were not entitled to civil redress, the court insisted, because “The duty to provide public services is owed to the public at large, and, absent a special relationship between the police and an individual, no specific legal duty exists.”
Brittany Irish’s case differs from the one described in that ruling in two significant ways. First, Andrew Lord not only shot, tortured, and sexually assaulted her, he assaulted several other people and murdered two victims after the police had been given detailed, specific advance warning regarding what was about to transpire – and they were in a position to help, but simply could not be bothered to do so.
Secondly, and most importantly, “We contend that the Maine State Police had established a `special relationship’ with Brittany,” attorney Dave Van Dyke told Pro Libertate. “In addition, it is clear that she was seriously harmed as a result of what the case law calls `State-created danger.’”
By contacting Lord and informing him of the sexual assault complaint, and then refusing to provide protection to Brittany, the State Police “acted to increase the threat which existed to Plaintiffs beyond that which otherwise existed,” the lawsuit contends. “Defendants made an implicit and/or express promise to protect Plaintiffs, Plaintiffs relied upon such promise, Defendants failed to fulfill such promise and Plaintiffs were injured thereby, such unfulfilled promise creating a special duty” to protect Brittany and her family.
It should be pointed out that the conflict that led to Lord’s murder rampage had existed for several years, and Brittany had obtained two restraining orders against him. Following the initial July 14, 2015, sexual assault, Brittany received no assistance whatsoever from the police. She went to a hospital to undergo a rape kit examination; she carefully preserved the clothes she had been wearing as evidence. When she reported the rape on July 15, she was told by the State Police to come in the following morning and file a written complaint.
A few hours after the assault, Brittany had received a text message from Lord asking her to meet him to “talk about what had happened.” This prompted her to suggest to the police that she meet him and elicit a recorded confession from him – if an officer would maintain a discreet distance to ensure her safety.
“That’s not the way we do it,” an officer explained to her. The preferred approach in such situations, apparently, is to inform a registered violent sex offender with psychotic tendencies that he had been accused of rape, and suggest that he volunteer to talk about it with the police at his leisure.
After enduring the second rape and witnessing two murders, Brittany delivered the offender to the State Police. The department held a press conference to express perfunctory condolences to the people whom they had failed to protect –and then slammed down the portcullis to prevent critical scrutiny of its actions.
“We made an FOIA request for the official reports and other documents on this case,” Van Dyke told me. “It was denied on the grounds that they are part of an `ongoing investigation.’” Lord’s trial isn’t scheduled until August of 2017, which would give the State Police more than a year to keep those documents from the public. Accordingly, “we decided to file suit and get the documents through discovery,” Van Dyke explained. He is guardedly optimistic that Brittany’s case is strong enough to overcome “the cottage industry in `qualified immunity’” that constantly devises ever more elaborate rationales for failing to hold police officers accountable for their actions – and their derelictions.
If Brittany Irish had been pulled over by a state trooper who demanded to search her vehicle and person for drugs or cash, she would have been under a state-prescribed duty to submit. This is the kind of “general public service” the police are expected to provide – or, more accurately, to inflict. She cannot opt-out of that “service” without being arrested and possibly killed by those providing it. Those same agents of state-authorized violence, however, opted out of helping Brittany when she and her family needed protection.
Over the past century, the state’s “justice” system has created a lengthy series of judicial precedents intended to discourage “self-help” on the part of people experiencing, or threatened by, criminal violence – whether official or private. Self-help was the only kind available to Brittany and her family, and it proved unavailing when the Maine State Police actively collaborated with a deranged man who tore a bloody swath through two counties.