A federal judge has decided the Biddeford Police Department cannot be held liable for the fatal shootings of two teenagers.

James Pak, seen in court in 2016, is now serving life in prison for murdering two teenagers and shooting a woman who was his tenant in 2012. Whitney Hayward/Staff Photographer

James Pak, now 82, is serving a life sentence for the December 2012 murders of Derrick Thompson, 19, and his girlfriend, Alivia Welch, 18. Pak also shot Thompson’s mother, Susan Stevens, but she survived the attack.

Court documents show Thompson called police on Dec. 29, 2012, to report that Pak had threatened them, but the officers never asked Pak if he had a gun and left when they decided the dispute was a civil matter. Within minutes, Pak entered the apartment with a gun and shot the three tenants.

The victims’ mothers filed separate wrongful death lawsuits in U.S. District Court in Portland. Their two cases merged last year. The defendants are the city of Biddeford and its police department, Police Chief Roger Beaupre and the two individual officers who responded that day.

U.S. District Judge Jon Levy held a hearing in the case last year and granted the city’s motion for summary judgment this week. That decision will dismiss the case, but the plaintiffs have the right to take the case to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston.

“One may reasonably ask whether James Pak’s crimes might have been prevented if the police had taken additional affirmative steps to protect the victims in response to the 9-1-1 call,” Levy wrote in the order. “Yet … judges must exercise restraint in cases such as this and remain mindful of their ‘natural sympathy’ and tendency to search for a way to compensate plaintiffs for the grievous harm that they have endured.

“Having carefully examined the voluminous record created by the parties and the applicable statutes and precedents that must inform my judgment in this difficult case, I conclude that the Defendants are not civilly liable for the harm brought about by the heinous crimes of James Pak.”

The lawsuit contained multiple claims, but Levy found in part that the actions and inactions by the police officers did not greatly increase the risk of danger to the victims, which was one legal standard that factored into this case.

Attorney Sarah Churchill represents Joceylyn Welch, who was Alivia Welch’s mother.

“At this point we do not have any comment on the decision as we are still in the process of assessing the decision,” Churchill wrote in an email Thursday.

Attorney Kristine Hanly represents Susan Stevens, whose last name was previously Johnson. Hanly had not issued a statement on the judge’s ruling as of Thursday night.

Douglas Louison, one of the attorneys for the city and the police, said all of the parties recognized that the shootings were a tragedy.

“The court had to recognize that the law just doesn’t make the police and public safety the guarantors of all safety for the public,” he said. “And it was just an unfortunate unforeseen circumstance.”

Deputy Police Chief JoAnne Fisk did not return an email request for an interview Thursday afternoon.

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