Two people are dead and four more wounded at the hands of a violent criminal who, according to one of the victims, had all but broadcast his brutal intentions in the days and hours before his deadly rampage.

That raises a lot of questions about how the Maine State Police handled this particular crime — the shootings by Anthony Lord centered around the northern Maine town of Benedicta — and how it deals in broader terms with sexual assault and domestic violence.

State police aren’t talking, choosing instead to follow a policy — misguided, in this instance — that keeps the agency from discussing active cases.

So we only have the court affidavits and the words of Brittany Irish, the young mother who was Lord’s target. And if Irish’s account is accurate, the shootings in southern Aroostook County were as avoidable as they were tragic.

Speaking Wednesday morning outside of her mother’s home in Benedicta, Irish recounted the horrific series of events that led up to last week’s shootings, just as her parents had the previous day in an interview with the Associated Press.

Two days before the shootings, Irish said, Lord abducted her, took her to a remote cabin and sexually assaulted her repeatedly. He let her go only when she promised not tell police.

She did report the crime, however, to the local police in Bangor, who passed her off to the correct jurisdiction, the state police.

Irish met with detectives, who she said had her correspond via text message with Lord, in an attempt to draw out a confession. At some point, the detectives interviewed Lord, letting him know he was under investigation.

Two hours later, the barn at Irish’s mother’s house was on fire, and Lord’s rampage was underway.

Irish’s first report — of a repeated sexual assault by someone with a history of violent crimes, a sex offender who spent years in prison for sexual contact with a child, and whose actions previously had compelled Irish to get a protection from abuse order — should have been enough to consider the red flags raised, and to warrant, at least, police protection and surveillance.

But the barn fire, timed and placed as it was, should have been seen as a threat, a precursor to violence. Instead, it apparently was taken as extreme coincidence.

The fire drew Irish and Kyle Hewitt, her boyfriend and the father of her two children, to Benedicta, out of concern. Irish said she pleaded with a state police officer to stay there with them, but was told they didn’t have the manpower.

A couple of hours later, Hewitt was dead, and Irish and her mother were wounded, all by gunshots from Lord, who left the house with Irish as his captive.

Later, he killed a second man and wounded another, after they inquired about Irish’s injury. He then surrendered to police at his mother’s house.

Maybe state police have an explanation about the events, but it’s hard to say what it could be. Maybe they see the series of events differently, or maybe there are facts not yet known to the public.

To be sure, law enforcement is forced to use its limited resources based on priorities.

However, if Lord, a criminal with a violent past under investigation for rape, is not a priority, who is?

And while hindsight is 20/20, one would have to be blind to look at the sequence of events starting with Irish’s rape and not see something bad was coming, particularly once the fire in Benedicta illuminated that point beyond doubt.

Finally, if allegations of rape against someone like Lord are not taken seriously, then what message does that send to other victims of sexual assault or domestic violence? How will they ever feel safe coming forward?

When the state police review this case as promised, they should start there.


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