During her segment on the Maine Public’s “Maine Calling” radio show Wednesday, Maine Gov. Janet Mills was asked to address a Bangor Daily News article about a Patten man who died in police custody while high on a combination of methamphetamine and fentanyl and resisting arrest.
The Maine State Police issued a statement Wednesday calling the BDN article “irresponsible journalism” after the outlet published the story without including comments from the Maine attorney general’s office, Maine State Police and the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office.
Jeremy Lau, 46, died shortly after he was arrested for reportedly trying to enter a woman’s home, breaking one of her windows, and swinging a bat at people.
Lau, who was known by officers to have hepatitis C, was handcuffed after a struggle, and moved into an ambulance face down on a board with a mesh hood over his face to prevent him spitting on officers.
During a previous altercation, he had attempted to spit into an officer’s mouth.
Chief Medical Examiner Mark Flomenbaum determined that Lau had an enlarged heart, and suffered “sudden cardiac death following restraint in the prone position and Taser deployment.”
Flomenbaum also reported that Lau had acute levels of methamphetamine, fentanyl, and buprenorphine in his system at the time of his death.
The caller asked Gov. Mills whether she had seen the BDN article, which states that Lau’s death had been ruled a homicide by the medical examiner.
“We are as a nation very alarmed at the incidents of police shootings of people in their custody. How do you think we could do a better job here in Maine of not having this kind of accident again?” the caller asked.
“Well, I can’t — I’m not responsible for the headlines,” Mills said. “But the fact that by the medical examiner’s determination that it was homicide does not mean that it was not justifiable homicide, and that’s the issue the Attorney General — the Attorney General’s Office looks at.”
“And I can’t comment on the facts of that case in particular,” Mills added. “But we have good training, training opportunities for police officers at all levels in the State of Maine, and if that needs to be enhanced, so be it.”
The Maine State Police’s Wednesday statement indicates that the investigation of the Attorney General’s Office into the incident found “no criminal conduct involved in the law enforcement response.”
The statement goes on to say that the State Police investigation of the incident found that the officers’ response was “consistent with training and policy” and that no misconduct occurred.
In an additional Facebook post Wednesday, the Maine State Police called the report by the BDN’s Sawyer Loftus “incorrect and inflammatory” and said they “were given zero time to respond to [it].”