CANAAN — The owners of a campground where a man was arrested after slashing camper tires with knives and being subdued by campers with duct tape say the police didn’t tell the whole story, and the man’s mother said he shouldn’t have been arrested in the first place because he has special needs.

Jeff and Melanie Peterson, who have owned the Skowhegan/Kennebec KOA campground on U.S. Route 2 since 2014, said the group of people who restrained Brandon York made the situation worse.

According to Somerset County Chief Deputy James Ross, York, 26, of Minot, was reported to have been wielding knives, slashing tires and banging on campers Sunday evening, causing an estimated $3,000 worth of damage. After that, a group of campers allegedly gathered together, restrained York using duct tape and waited for police to arrive. However, the Petersons said this was an isolated event and indicated York might have mental health problems.

Jeff Peterson said York might have been an adult in the eyes of the campers, but actually he was not.

“Too many people got involved,” he said.

The Petersons did not refute the description of events of May 28, but said it was a bad situation that ultimately escalated when the campers got involved.


Jeff Peterson said the situation escalated to a “mob scene” with an estimated 25 people chasing York and yelling at him, and ultimately the campers restrained him.

“It was kind of a freak thing that happened,” Jeff Peterson said.

The Petersons said York had pocket knives, not large knives, but said “a knife is a knife and it caused damage.”

As of Thursday afternoon, York was still at Somerset County Jail, where his bail had been set at $20,000. York’s mother, Tammy Harmon, said she is struggling to find a way to come up with his bail money.

York was staying with people at the campgrounds and had been to the campgrounds before, but the Petersons said they had never seen this side of him before. Since his arrest on charges of criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon, assault and criminal mischief, he no longer is allowed at the campgrounds.

“This was not a drunken holiday weekend,” Jeff Peterson said, but rather an isolated incident involving an individual “with some issues.”


Jeff Peterson said the issue was “handled and taken care of as quickly as possible” and that no drugs or alcohol were involved in the incident. He said the camp is by no means a “party spot,” and that York’s actions were “something no one would have seen coming.” He said that by behaving like a mob, the campers caused York’s anger to increase, especially with people chasing him.

“If they had backed off, it never would have gotten to the level it did,” he said.

While Peterson said he could understand the campers’ reaction to the events, he also said it was important to look at it from York’s perspective, and that a group of people yelling at him and chasing him escalated the situation. On Thursday morning, Jeff Peterson said none of the campers involved in the incident were still at the camp. While he doesn’t consider anyone on his staff to be a hero, he said everyone there did everything they could to protect people.

“We did everything in our power to end this situation,” he said.

Melanie Peterson said no one was hurt during the incident, and that many campers on the grounds didn’t even know about the situation when it was happening.

Tammy Harmon, who is York’s mother, said her son should not have been arrested. She said he has a number of disabilities, including XYY syndrome, in which a person has an extra male chromosome and can exhibit autism spectrum disorders, depression, schizophrenia and mild mental retardation. She said he was living in a group home at the time and has been in and out of group homes since he was 10 years old.


Harmon did not find out about her son’s arrest until family members saw it on the news. She said what happened at the campground was not completely her son’s fault, and she didn’t understand why he was at the campgrounds in the first place. She didn’t know much about what happened that day, but said what she had heard was that her son was confronted after taking photos with his phone.

“He’s not a bad kid,” Harmon said, getting choked up over the phone.

Harmon said she is struggling trying to figure out how to raise $20,000 in bail. She said although her son is 26, he has the capacities of a young child. She also said no one from York’s group home had contacted her to let her know about her son’s arrest.

“He should not be in jail,” Harmon said. “He should be in a hospital getting help.”

On Thursday, Ross said there were no updates on the investigation. He said York’s family members had contacted the sheriff’s department about his special needs, which they are dealing with, but said the deputies did not know he had special needs at the time of the arrest.

Regarding the Petersons’ comments that the campers escalated the situation, Ross said that by the time deputies arrived, York already had been subdued, so he didn’t know if the crowd did in fact escalate things.


“The deputies took him into custody,” Ross said. “He was compliant and has been since.”

Colin Ellis — 861-9253

[email protected]

Twitter: @colinoellis

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