Auburn police respond to federal lawsuit

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 AUBURN — Attorneys for the Police Department denied claims in a federal lawsuit lodged against one named officer, several unnamed officers and the department’s chief, alleging excessive force and civil rights violations.

Ronald Deschaine, 72, said in a July complaint filed in U.S. District Court that local police violated his civil rights when they wrongfully arrested and injured him outside his 72 James St. home on July 25, 2016.

Deschaine said he had approached officers who were on scene to apparently investigate an incident involving Deschaine’s neighbor, with whom he had been talking at that time on the porch of his home.

After 10 minutes of watching police interact with his neighbor, Deschaine approached a third cruiser that had rolled up to the scene, he said in his complaint.

He wasn’t armed nor threatening, he said.

Deschaine said in his complaint that Officer John Chamberlain “appeared as if he were looking for a fight.” After another officer warned Deschaine to “step away from the vehicle,” Chamberlain told him “you are going to jail,” according to the complaint.

Deschaine answered: “You stay away from me.” Then Chamberlain “ran at Mr. Deschaine and tackled him from behind, knocking him violently into the police cruiser,” the complaint said.

The Vietnam and Korean war U.S. Army veteran helicopter pilot was in “severe pain” and was confused, he said in his complaint. He initially was uncooperative as officers attempted to handcuff him. He was hit with a police baton and threatened with a Taser, he said in his complaint.

Deschaine had earlier suffered a heart attack that left him in a weakened condition, he said, causing him to retire in 2007. In the cruiser, he requested medical attention and was taken to a local hospital after a dispatcher directed police to do so, he said in his complaint.

Chamberlain charged him with refusal to submit to arrest, but prosecutors never pursued criminal charges against him, he said.

In their response to the complaint, the defendants denied more than two cruisers had been dispatched to the scene on James Street. They admitted Deschaine wasn’t armed, but denied he wasn’t threatening anyone and denied Chamberlain was seeking a fight.

The defendants denied an officer told Deschaine to step away from the cruiser, that Chamberlain had told Deschaine he was going to jail and that Deschaine had told Chamberlain to stay away from him. They also denied Chamberlain tackled Deschaine from behind and knocked him into a cruiser.

The defendants admitted Chamberlain tried to handcuff Deschaine and that he resisted, but denied he was in severe pain and confused. They also denied officers struck Deschaine with a baton and threatened him with a Taser.

Although Deschaine alleged police had not established probable cause to arrest him for a crime, defendants denied that conclusion and said he not only was charged with refusal to submit to arrest, but also was charged with disorderly conduct.

But defendants admitted the District Attorney’s Office never brought criminal charges against Deschaine.

The defendants said in their response that they never inflicted any injuries on Descahine, but admitted he told officers he was having a heart attack after he was handcuffed and put in a cruiser. They denied he asked for medical attention.

The lawsuit alleges that then-Police Chief Philip Crowell failed to properly supervise and discipline Chamberlain for his actions and abdicated any appropriate level of supervision and/or discipline of Chamberlain, claims that were denied by the defendants.

In addition to claims of statutory violations by Chamberlain, unnamed officers and Crowell, Deschaine’s complaint alleges assault, unlawful arrest and false imprisonment by Chamberlain.

A trial has tentatively been scheduled for May.

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