BENEDICTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — A woman who brought a lawsuit against Maine State Police claiming they failed to protect her from her homicidal ex-boyfriend has won an appeal of a decision to dismiss her lawsuit.
The First District Court of Appeals in Boston overturned a lower court decision to dismiss the case Brittany Irish filed against Maine State Police officers for how they handled her allegations of rape against Anthony Lord.
Brittany Irish is not just alleging that state police failed to protect her and her family from Anthony Lord, but that their actions are what set him into a violent rage that ended with three people injured and two others shot and killed.
Brittany Irish says she called state police to report that Anthony Lord kidnapped and raped her in July of 2015. It's what happened next that is at the heart of this lawsuit.
According to the suit, state police officers called Lord and left him a voicemail asking him to come in for an interview regarding Irish's rape allegations, despite her fears that it would make him angry.
“The officer left Lord this message despite Irish's explicit request that the State Police refrain from doing so out of her fear that this action would incite further violence from Lord. The timing of the events suggests that she was correct in her fears,” the lawsuit states.
Two hours later, a barn behind the Irish family home was set on fire. According to the lawsuit, at that point Irish and her mother, Kim Irish, asked police to leave an officer, or at least a cruiser in front of the home, but state police said they didn't have the manpower.
Lord allegedly returned to the home in the early morning hours with guns blazing, killing Irish's boyfriend, Kyle Hewitt, wounding Kim Irish, and abducting Brittany Irish. Lord allegedly killed another man, Kevin Tozier, as Lord was on the run from police.
"We believe that the errors of the state police … and everyone's human … the errors of the state police led to catastrophic results that night. Basically two deaths, a maiming and a truly horrific situation for the main plaintiff the principal main plaintiff,” explained David Van Dyke, Brittany Irish’s attorney.
The US District Court dismissed the lawsuit last September saying that Irish had not demonstrated that state police had created a dangerous situation by failing to protect her.
"Seeking to interview an alleged perpetrator of a sexual assault is a routine and predictable law enforcement action, and the first circuit has held that such actions cannot form the basis for a state created danger claim," the District Court ruling stated.
But the First Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday overturned that dismissal, telling the lower court to take up the case again and seek additional details, including whether the state police had detailed rules on how closely to investigate a claimed threat before dismissing a request for protection.
Van Dyke said he welcomes the opportunity to seek out those details and move forward with the lawsuit:
"In fact we want to know and the first circuit Court of Appeals which is the highest court below the United States Supreme Court wants to know to what extent did the officers actions that day present a departure from appropriate police practices."
The Maine Attorney General's Office, which is representing state police in this case, has declined to comment; saying it's their practice not to comment on pending lawsuits.
Anthony Lord is currently in jail being held without bail as he awaits trial on the charges stemming from the deadly rampage.