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Criminal Mischief (01/29/2020)

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Woman stalked by drone

GORHAM (AP) — A Maine woman who was harassed by a drone for two days says police told her they could do nothing about it.

Mary Dunham says a drone tracked her in her car on Tuesday as she drove to a gas station, where she called police, and then to her home in Gorham. It followed her eight miles to her brother’s house in Standish the following day.

It was an “unnerving”experience, she said. “The officer arrived and said, ‘Yeah, I see it. I don’t know what to tell you though. We can’t do too much,’” she said.

Some states have laws that make it a crime to use drones for surveillance that violates a person’s reasonable expectation of privacy, but Maine is not one of them, the Portland Press Herald reported.

Drones must be registered with the Federal Aviation Administration and cannot fly around airports where the agency controls airspace. But there are few restrictions for drones that operate elsewhere.

There are more than 1.5 million drones registered nationwide, two-thirds of which are for recreational use, according to the FAA.

Dunham said it’s discouraging to think that a citizen’s right to operate a drone outweighs her right to privacy.

“I don’t know how long they’ve been watching, or why they’re doing it,” she said. “It could be my neighbor and I wouldn’t know.”

The Gorham Police Department didn’t immediately respond to a message left by The Associated Press on Saturday. But Deputy Chief Michael Nault told News Center Maine that the drone episode was “out of the norm.”

Company cited for Farmington propane explosion

AUGUSTA (AP) — A Maine company that severed an underground propane line that caused a deadly propane explosion was cited for violating the state’s Dig Safe law, but no criminal charges are warranted, officials said Friday.

The propane line was ruptured by a Manchester company that was installing safety posts in a parking lot about 5 feet from the building, officials said.

A 500-gallon propane tank was refilled three days before the blast, and the building manager evacuated the building and opened windows after noticing that there were propane fumes and that the tank was empty again, the state fire marshal’s office reported in its conclusions about the September propane blast.

The explosion happened when the building manager and firefighters returned to the building to look for the source of the propane leak.

The blast, which leveled the building, was so powerful it blew a vehicle across an intersection and damaged nearby homes, leaving many homeless. One firefighter was killed and a half-dozen others were injured. Also injured was the building’s maintenance manager, who remains hospitalized.

Investigators were unable to determine the source of ignition. There are a number of possible sources, including disruption of electricity, a light switch, a furnace or static electricity, said Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety.

The company responsible for severing the propane line was installing posts in the parking lot to protect an exterior air conditioning unit, officials said. The posts have an auger on the bottom, and an auger pierced the protective sleeve of the propane line, investigators said.

Although liquefied propane lines aren’t expressly covered by Maine’s Dig Safe program, the Maine Public Utilities Commission cited the company, Techno Metal Post, for failing to notify Dig Safe officials before the excavation.

Company officials didn’t immediately return a message from The Associated Press.

A bill introduced in the Maine Legislature would add language that specifically addresses liquefied propane lines.

The daughter of Fire Capt. Michael Bell, who was killed, testified in favor of the bill Tuesday.

“The leak that lead to the explosion that killed my father was preventable and never should have happened,” Danielle Bell Flannery said.

Animals seized from Hampden home

HAMPDEN (AP) — Nearly 30 animals were seized from a Maine home, officials said.

The owner of the home was working to create a licensed breeding kennel, but a search warrant was issued after multiple violations were found, said Liam Hughes, director of Maine’s animal welfare program. The animals were taken Tuesday.

Twenty-five dogs, including eight puppies, and one cat were taken to animal shelters. Many of the dogs were Great Danes, which aren’t acclimated to live in cold weather because of their thin coats, Hughes said.

One horse was also surrendered. There were other horses at the property that were not seized because they had suitable living conditions.

All of the animals will be evaluated and treated. They are not currently available for adoption because of the ongoing investigation.

Truck crashes into convenience store

OTISFIELD – A report of a suspicious pickup truck led to a high-speed chase that ultimately resulted in the vehicle crashing through the front of a convenience store.

At just before 11 p.m. on Jan. 23, deputies from the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office responded to a complaint of a suspicious pick-up truck at the Big Apple store located at 1340 Roosevelt Trail in Raymond.

Deputies arrived and began speaking to the occupant of the truck, noting signs of impairment. During this interaction, the male, later identified as 31-year-old Zachary Mercier, sped away from the store.

Mercier led the deputies on a pursuit that went onto Main Street to Route 121 into Otisfield. As the pursuit continued onto Bolsters Mills Road in Otisfield, a Maine State Police Trooper set up spike mats. Mercier’s vehicle went over the spike mats puncturing three of the four tires. Mercier continued at a high rate of speed and could not make the 90-degree turn on to either Bolsters Mills Road towards Harrison or Bill Hill Road. The vehicle drove through the front of the Otisfield General Store and came to final rest in the middle of the store.

Mercier was not cooperative and had to be taken into custody after he was tased. He was taken by United Ambulance to Steven’s Memorial Hospital in Norway for minor injuries resulting from the crash and possible drug-related issues.

Mercier will be charged with: failure to submit to arrest, criminal speed, eluding a police officer, operating after suspension and violation of condition of release, as well as two outstanding warrants.

Last modified on Wednesday, 29 January 2020 08:27

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