WATERVILLE — A Hallowell man has accused the city, two Waterville police officers and the police chief of violating his civil rights during his arrest at Inland Hospital in 2014.

In a seven-page lawsuit filed Jan. 5 in Kennebec County Superior Court, Blake Harwood accuses Waterville police Officers Brian Gardiner and Adam Sirois of falsely imprisoning him and subjecting him to excessive physical force when he was arrested in August 2014. He also claims the officers and department acted maliciously when they criminally charged Harwood in connection with the incident.

According to police records, Harwood, then 52, was arrested on a criminal trespassing charge shortly before 3 a.m. on Aug. 5, 2014, at Inland Hospital. According to his attorney, that charge has since been dismissed.

In his complaint, Harwood claims he had gone to the emergency room of Inland Hospital about 9 p.m. the previous night seeking treatment for a host of medical complaints, including shortness of breath, dizziness and nausea, but lay down on the floor when he could not find anyone to help him.

An unnamed hospital employee swore at Harwood and told him to get up, and when Gardiner and Sirois arrived shortly thereafter, Gardiner assaulted Harwood “without provocation” by kicking him and kneeing him in the neck while calling him derogatory names, the lawsuit says. Harwood claims Gardiner put him in unnecessarily tight handcuffs and threatened to use mace on him when he put Harwood into his patrol car.

Gardiner is a Waterville police sergeant and Sirois, who is now with the Oakland Police Department, is a school resource officer at Messalonskee Middle School in Oakland.

In a response to the complaint filed in federal court in Bangor last week, Edward Benjamin, the attorney representing the city and the police, denied all of Harwood’s accusations. He said Waterville officers were called to the hospital because Harwood was being disruptive.

“It’s an outrage, an incredible story,” Benjamin said in an interview Tuesday. “It doesn’t have any semblance of what happened, as far as I know.”

Benjamin, who specializes in defending police in civil rights cases, said he moved the case to federal court because federal judges are more familiar with the Fourth Amendment violations Harwood is alleging. The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution protects citizens against illegal search and seizure, requiring probable cause, protecting citizens from arbitrary interference by the government.

Benjamin also said that federal courts do not suffer the same delays and shortage of judges that the state system does.

The complaint alleges that Sirois and Gardner falsely arrested Harwood without a warrant or probable cause, used excessive force against him during his arrest and acted maliciously when charging Harwood with criminal conduct because they should have known there was no probable cause to support the charges.

Harwood also accuses the city of Waterville and Massey of failing to train or supervise Gardiner and Sirois properly in determining probable cause and in the use of force to make an arrest. Harwood is seeking compensation for pain and suffering, loss of liberty, physical injuries and mental distress he claims he suffered as a result of the incident.

Stephen Smith, an attorney with Lipman and Katz in Augusta representing Harwood, declined to comment in detail on the case in an interview Tuesday.

“I don’t have anything to offer at this point,” Smith said. “Until I get some discovery, I am not going to be in a position to comment.”

In the complaint, Harwood claims that before he went to Inland Hospital, he was maltreated by a nurse at MaineGeneral Hospital in Augusta, where he was locked in a room at the hospital without legal authority.

Inland Hospital is labeled a defendant in the statement of facts included in the complaint, but it is not one of the defendants to the suit.

Smith would not say whether Harwood had filed or intended to file another complaint against Inland Hospital.

“It remains to be seen. We are still in discovery,” he said.

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @PeteL_McGuire


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.