The Maine State Police issued a statement Wednesday slamming the Bangor Daily News for their article covering the death in police custody of a Patten man last year.
Jeremy Lau, 46, died in police custody on March 1, 2022, after he was arrested by officers from the Maine State Police and the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office following a report that Lau was vandalizing a woman’s house and threatening people.
The woman who called 911 told dispatch that Lau had broken a window, had access to a knife, and was “on something.”
Lau was reportedly swinging a bat at people while yelling could be heard over the phone by the dispatcher, according to the report of Detective Seth Blodgett of the Attorney General’s Office, which reviewed the case.
Blodgett’s report states that officers had dealt with Lau seven times since July 2021, and that “in the past it has taken four Troopers to get Mr. Lau under control.”
In July 2021, Lau, who had a long criminal history in Maine with several drug-related crimes, was known by officers to use methamphetamine and heroin.
Lau, who had Hepatitis C, once reportedly spit in a trooper’s mouth.
The responding officers on March 1, 2022, arrived at the 911 caller’s home to see Lau attempting to get into the woman’s house.
When offered an ambulance for Lau to “get help,” Lau refused.
After Lau smashed a porch light with his elbow, officers used a taser on him, which was “ineffective.”
A second round was fired at Lau, who continued to “active resist the officers” while they wrestled with him on the ground.
After a struggle on the ground in which he was hit by officers multiple times with “palm strikes” and a Maglite flashlight, Lau was handcuffed and carried to an ambulance on a backboard face down, with a mesh hood covering his face designed to prevent him from spitting on the officers.
The Maine 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 found Lau was acutely intoxicated by the combined effects of methamphetamine, fentanyl, and buprenorphine, BDN reported Wednesday.
At the time of Lau’s arrest, he was wanted for missing a court date for an incident in which he allegedly assaulted a Penobscot County sheriff’s deputy and kicked the windshield of the deputy’s cruiser, causing more than $1,000 in damage.
An initial version of the BDN’s article did not include comments from the Maine State Police, Maine Attorney General’s Office, and the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office.
“The Maine State Police would like to express our disappointment and frustration in response to the Bangor Daily News article regarding the death of Jeremy Lau,” Maine Department of Public Safety Public Information Officer Shannon Moss wrote in a statement Wednesday. “We were told the story would be published ASAP and would be updated with comments from respected agencies as they came in.”
“Irresponsible journalism is when a media outlet is not interested in an agencies comments before publishing an inflammatory article about them,” the statement reads.
In a subsequent Facebook post, the MSP called the newspaper’s reporting “incorrect and inflammatory”.
“Maine State Police respond to incorrect and inflammatory newspaper article we were given zero time to respond to,” MSP said.
Moss wrote that following Lau’s in-custody death, the Attorney General’s Office investigated the incident and released a statement indicating “there was no criminal conduct involved in the law enforcement response.”
The Maine State Police, Moss adds, also investigated the incident and found that the officers’ response was “consistent with training and policy” and that no misconduct occurred.
“The Troopers responded to assist Penobscot County Sheriff’s Deputies at their request to an emergency call for service where an impaired, combative individual who was swinging a bat and trying to hit people needed to be taken into custody,” Moss wrote.
“The investigation showed Troopers involved acted in an appropriate manner given the difficult circumstances of arresting Mr. Lau who was at the time a public safety risk,” she added. “No Troopers were disciplined as a result of this incident.”
The Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office issued a statement Wednesday saying that they are conducting a “thorough internal review of the incident” focusing on training, policies and procedures, and that any disciplinary action will be made public.