An attorney for the defense says James Levier committed “suicide by cop.”

PORTLAND (AP) – The daughters of a deaf man shot to death in a standoff in a parking lot two years ago has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the town of Scarborough and Maine State Police.

Susan Vincent and Christina Cookson, the daughters of James Levier, say police should have used a sign language interpreter and a nonlethal weapon to subdue their father. Police shot Levier five times when he appeared to aim a hunting rifle at them.

An investigation by the attorney general’s office cleared the officers, but Portland attorney Daniel Lilley said federal law required police to make special accommodations for Levier’s disability.

“The guy is deaf and they’re standing there with bull horns telling him to drop the gun,” said Lilley, who is Vincent’s and Cookson’s lawyer. “It’s a unique case. What are you supposed to do with a guy that’s deaf?”

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, names the town of Scarborough, Police Chief Robert Moulton, and Officers Robert Moore and Ivan Ramsdell as defendants. The suit also names the Maine State Police, its chief, Col. Michael Sperry and Trooper Mark Sperrey.

Pretrial motions are due next month, but Lilley has asked for more time.

Edward Benjamin, an attorney who represents the town of Scarborough and the Scarborough officers named in the suit, said he will ask a judge to dismiss the case immediately.

“It was about the most cut-and-dried lawful use of deadly force that I have ever seen,” Benjamin said. “This was ‘suicide by cop.’ This guy went out to get shot.”

Levier, who was 60, was one of a group of former students of the Gov. Baxter School for the Deaf in Falmouth who said they had been physically and sexually abused as children by state employees on the school staff.

On March 16, 2001, Levier parked his white van outside the Shop ‘n Save off of U.S. Route 1 in Scarborough. The van and the white T-shirt Levier was wearing had slogans on them including, “Respect who I am as deaf,” and “I go to war with lawmakers to free deaf people’s rights from discrimination.”

Levier began marching in the parking lot with a single-shot rifle on his shoulder. According to the lawsuit, “Levier’s actions were symbolic and designed exclusively to communicate with the public about the plight of deaf individuals in Maine.”

Local and state police tried to communicate with him, but did not allow a volunteer sign language interpreter to approach him.

Benjamin said police were trying to find a way to use the interpreter without exposing her to danger when gunfire erupted.

Levier is seen on a surveillance video making the sign of the cross and aiming the rifle at police officers. State police sharpshooter Mark Sperrey fired a shot at Levier’s shoulder to disable him. The Scarborough officers heard the shot and thought that Levier had fired at them, and shot him four times.

Benjamin said the officers did not have to try nonlethal tactics because they justifiably felt lives were in danger.

AP-ES-04-08-03 0902EDT

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