BELMONT — Mack Page was sound asleep in his bed at 11 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 3, when he was startled awake by the frantic barking of his black Labrador.
“What have I got now?” the 63-year-old commander of the Maine Militia remembers wondering. “A raccoon? A coyote?”
But it was none of those things. Instead, Page’s dark residence on a quiet Belmont road suddenly was lit up by men outside his windows carrying flashlights. He lives alone, he’s not in the best of health and he was scared.
“They called, ‘State police! Come out with your hands up!’” he said earlier this week. “I don’t know if I got paranoid or just angry, but I challenged them. ‘Who the hell are you?’ Am I going to get tazed? Am I going to get shot by somebody?’”
The men weren’t lying about who they were. But it was a case of mistaken identity, or rather, a wrong address. The troopers were acting on a citizen’s tip about a possible probation violation concerning a person believed to live on that road.
“Ultimately, the directions we had, which were vague, we ended up at the wrong house. Mack’s house,” Sgt. Patrick Hood of the Maine State Police said Friday.
When asked how often such incidents occur, Hood wasn’t specific.
“These things do happen,” he said. “Ultimately, the trooper made a mistake, and Mack obviously was upset with the way it happened.”
That is something of an understatement. Page, who helped found the militia, told the BDN in a prior interview that the group emphasizes self-reliance, tradition and community service and does not beat an anti-government drum. But he does not believe in quietly accepting something like last week’s incident, which he thinks could easily have ended very badly.
“My house is my domicile. What gives them the right to terrorize me in my own house when I’ve done nothing wrong?” he asked. “Somebody who may not be in as good health as I am could have had some serious problems.”
After peeking outside, Page saw that the vehicles — which were not lit up by blue lights — bore state police number plates. He called Waldo County dispatchers to ask what was happening.
“Dispatch says, ‘We don’t know anything about that,’” Page said.
He then called the Maine State Police dispatcher.
“The next thing I know, I have a cop on the phone. He said, ‘Put your firearm down and come out with your hands up,’” Page recalled. “If they had turned on a blue light, I would have known right off quick that they were police officers and acted accordingly. What bothers me is that they didn’t listen to anything I said and took it for granted that I was some kind of outlaw.”
He didn’t know why they were there, and wasn’t hearing any explanations, Page said. A few months before he was threatened at his home by a young collection agent who also had the wrong address, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to just walk outside.
Though he hadn’t shown a weapon to anyone, he was concerned about what the police were thinking.
“I was getting very paranoid at this point. Didn’t know what was going to come through my window … I said, call the sheriff. Tell him it’s Mack Page.”
Waldo County Sheriff Scott Story did call Page, and asked him what was happening. Then he talked to a state police officer and learned that it was a question of a wrong address.
“If it hadn’t been for the sheriff straightening things out, I think it would have escalated to a very bad thing,” said Page, who keeps guns in his home and has a lot of militia friends.
“If I had felt the situation was in jeopardy, I would have called some people I know and trust. That’s why I called dispatch and the sheriff,” he said. “I’m very glad it didn’t go any further than it did.”
Ultimately, he did go outside to show police he was not armed, and the police vehicles left his driveway. For Page, though, it’s not the end of the incident.
“I want an apology. How many other people have had this happen to them and not spoken up?” he asked. “I’m a citizen here. If I make mistakes, I have to apologize. Why can’t the state police apologize to me? That’s not too much, for the trauma they’re putting me through. What if I’d collapsed, had a heart attack, at my age and with my health?”
Hood said that the state police officials have apologized to Page for the mistake.
“There was no crime. No violation. It was simply a misunderstanding,” he said. “We did apologize to [Page], and he accepted our apology. Both he and state police are moving in a positive direction as a result of the incident.”
Page said Friday that perhaps an apology from police officials — which he referred to as “damage control” was not sufficient.
“I just want it to never happen again. Enough is enough,” he said. “I am adamant on having this whole thing turned around, and a whole new attitude from the state police.”