The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal by two state police officers accused of failing to protect a woman from a man who went on a deadly rampage, allowing a civil lawsuit to proceed.
Troopers were accused of failing to do enough when Brittany Irish reported that her boyfriend kidnapped and sexually assaulted her and later set fire to a barn owned by her parents in July 2015.
Her request for police protection was denied.
Hours later, the boyfriend killed Irish’s boyfriend, 22-year-old Kyle Hewitt, and wounded her mother before proceeding to kill another man and wound two others across several towns in northern Maine.
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case on Monday but didn’t say why, the Portland Press Herald reported. The court’s decision means the troopers will not be protected by the legal concept of qualified immunity.
The attorney general’s office, which is defending the troopers, declined comment Tuesday on the lawsuit. Irish’s attorney didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.
The man charged in the crime spree, Anthony Lord, pleaded guilty in 2017 to two counts of murder, two counts of attempted murder, aggravated assault and other charges. He’s serving two life sentences.
The lawsuit contends state police triggered the rampage when they called Lord’s cellphone, tipping him off that Brittany Irish had gone to police, instead of attempting to find or detain him. She said she’d warned police that Lord had threatened her if she spoke to authorities.
Later, police declined to post an officer outside her parents’ farmhouse in Benedicta, citing a lack of manpower.
The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said jurors could conclude that police created the danger, removing the qualified immunity concept that normally protects officers from actions in the line of duty.
“The defendants’ apparent utter disregard for police procedure could contribute to a jury’s conclusion that the defendants conducted themselves in a manner that was deliberately indifferent to the danger they knowingly created,” the court said.