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The Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinal
BY LINDSAY TICE
A Sumner family has lost its appeal in a civil suit against Oxford County and several law enforcement officers for the shooting death of their mentally ill son nine years ago.
Daniel W. Bennett II was 32 when he was shot by police outside his home on Upper Sumner Hill Road on Jan. 21, 2000.
At the time, then-Sheriff Lloyd “Skip” Herrick said officers tried to talk Bennett out of the house he shared with his mother and grandmother.
When Bennett emerged, Herrick said, he fired a shotgun at officers, and they returned fire.
Deputies Christopher Wainwright and Matthew Baker were identified as firing the shots that brought Bennett down. The Maine Attorney General’s Office found officers were justified in using deadly force.
In 2006, Bennett’s family filed a civil suit against Baker, who is now a sergeant, and Wainwright, who is now a lieutenant, as well as Herrick, Chief Deputy Jim Davis, Lt. James Miclon, Maine State Police Trooper Timothy Turner and the county.
The lawsuit said police were inadequately trained to cope with a mentally ill person and that officers escalated the situation.
In July 2007, the U.S. District Court in Portland ruled in favor of the officers and Oxford County. The family appealed that decision to the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston.
In November, the First Circuit Court upheld the lower court’s decision.
“It’s crushing to … have no justice,” said Thomas Connolly, the Bennett family attorney.
“We’re very, very discouraged and disappointed in the process and the outcome,” Connolly said.
The family could take its case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Although relatives have not made a final decision, Connolly called the Supreme Court “a long shot” and said the family is not likely to pursue the case that far.
Bennett, a former U.S. Marine and self-employed woodsman, lived in one side of the Sumner home while his mother and grandmother lived in the other. Reports at the time said police were called to the home after a woman told them Bennett had killed a dog with a baseball bat and was threatening to kill her and others at her residence.
The suit argued that Bennett’s mother asked police to take him to Augusta Mental Health Institute because he had become increasingly agitated after not taking his medication for several days. According to the suit, Bedard told a dispatcher that Bennett was not violent but “just wasn’t right.”
Connolly has said it was unclear whether Bennett actually killed the dog. He has said Bennett suffered from depression and was despondent over the animal’s death.
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