Grendell v. Maine

Decision Date10 July 2020
Docket Number1:19-cv-00419-JDL
PartiesMICHAEL S. GRENDELL, Plaintiff, v. STATE OF MAINE, et al., Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Maine

The Plaintiff, Michael S. Grendell, has brought this action against twenty-five defendants, including the State of Maine; the Maine State Police, eighteen of its troopers and officers, and its Police Bomb Team; and Brian MacMaster of the Maine Attorney General's Office. The complaint also names as defendants an unidentified "Government Agency A" and unidentified individuals, John and Jane Doe. The identified defendants have filed two partial motions to dismiss the complaint (ECF Nos. 9, 30).1 For reasons I will explain, the motions are granted in part and denied in part.


Grendell's complaint alleges the following facts. Beginning in mid-June 2018, Grendell started experiencing mental health issues, and he began behaving abnormally.

On June 27, Grendell had several encounters with a friend in an effort to recover mail Grendell believed the friend had stolen from him. During the encounters, Grendell "inappropriate[ly] use[d] . . . firearms or a hatchet, including [by] discharging [a] firearm." ECF No. 1 ¶ 14. The following day, the friend notified the police that Grendell had shot at him. The friend told the police that he thought Grendell was having a mental health crisis and that he wanted to get help for Grendell.

On June 28, at 1:43 p.m., Sergeant Alden Bustard, Trooper Jeremy Caron, and Trooper Bryan Creamer went to Grendell's home in Dixmont, Maine. Grendell had no telephone. Using a public address system, the officers ordered Grendell to come out of the residence with his "hands out." ECF No. 1 ¶ 17. After several minutes, Grendell walked out of the front door wearing only underwear and asked the officers if they were the "real police." The officers identified themselves and directed Grendell to walk away from the residence. Grendell responded by walking back into his house and closing the door.

Trooper Creamer moved to the rear of the residence "to establish perimeter security around" it, and Trooper Bustard contacted Detective Gregory Roy, the assistant commander of the Maine State Police's Tactical Team. ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 21-22. Detective Roy then activated the Tactical Team. At 2:25 p.m., an Assistant District Attorney approved charges against Grendell for "Reckless Conduct with a Firearm." ECF No. 1 ¶ 23. Officers at some point also obtained arrest and search warrants. From 2:42 p.m. until 4:07 p.m., various law enforcement officers, including Maine State Police negotiators, arrived at the scene.

At approximately 6:02 p.m., Grendell exited his home with a handgun in one hand and a dog on a leash in the other hand. Grendell also had a Civil War replica rifle strapped on his shoulder. A member of the Crisis Negotiation Team ordered Grendell to drop the gun, but Grendell did not comply and instead reentered his home and activated his truck's alarm. At approximately 3:00 a.m. the next morning, June 29, Grendell activated the alarm on his truck a second time. At 3:30 a.m. on June 29, Grendell fired a gun inside the house and activated his truck's alarm a third time.

At 5:15 a.m., officers used an armored truck (referred to as a "LENCO") to breach a window in Grendell's house. Grendell responded by firing at the truck. A four-hour firefight then ensued between Grendell and the officers, during which Grendell shot at the LENCO, and bullets hit trees near several troopers.

About three hours into the firefight, Detective Roy stated that he was going to ask the Maine State Police's "Bomb Team" to create an explosive breaching charge to "take down the wall of the residence so [officers] could at least visually see where inside the residence Grendell was." ECF No. 1 ¶ 56. The officers intended to use a robot to insert the breaching charge through a window.

At 9:15 a.m., the Bomb Team drove the robot toward the house with the breaching charge, but Grendell shot the robot, disabling it. Sergeant Christopher Harriman reported to Major Christopher Grotton that the robot was "dead" but that the charge could still be detonated at the side of the house. ECF No. 1 ¶ 68. Sergeant Harriman, with instructions from Major Grotton, detonated the charge. The detonation caused the house to collapse.

As a result of the explosion, Grendell was concussed, suffered from at least temporary deafness, and at least temporarily lost the cognitive ability to hear and understand generally. He emerged from the debris with a baseball bat and then picked up a rifle. While trying to load the rifle, Grendell was shot by Troopers Caleb McGary and Andrew Hardy. The complaint asserts that "[a]t no time was an appropriate warning given to Grendell before [the bomb was detonated or before] he was shot."2 ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 71, 73.


To survive a motion to dismiss, the complaint "must contain sufficient factual matter to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Rodríguez-Reyes v. Molina-Rodríguez, 711 F.3d 49, 53 (1st Cir. 2013) (quoting Grajales v. P.R. Ports Auth., 682 F.3d 40, 44 (1st Cir. 2012)). Courts apply a two-pronged approach in resolving a motion to dismiss. Ocasio-Hernández v. Fortuño-Burset, 640 F.3d 1, 12 (1st Cir. 2011). First, courts must identify and disregard statements in the complaint that merely offer legal conclusions couched as factual allegations. Id. (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). Second, courts "must determine whether the remaining factual content allows a reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." A.G. ex rel. Maddox v. Elsevier, Inc., 732 F.3d 77, 80 (1st Cir. 2013) (quotation marks and citation omitted). Courts accept all well-pleaded facts as true and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Rodríguez-Reyes, 711 F.3d at 52-53. Determining the plausibility of a claim is "a context-specifictask that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id. at 53 (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679).

The Defendants now move to dismiss certain defendants and claims in Grendell's sixteen-count complaint. In particular, the Defendants seek the dismissal of: (1) all claims as to nine individual Defendants; (2) five claims as to all Defendants; (3) two claims as to the State of Maine, the Maine State Police, and the individual Defendants named in their official capacities; and (4) one claim as to all individual Defendants.

A. Dismissal of Certain Individual Defendants

The Defendants maintain that the claims against nine individual Defendants—Trooper Brian Bean, Detective Tucker Bonnevie, Trooper Robert Burke, Trooper Bernard Campbell, Trooper David Coflesky, Sergeant Jeffrey Mills, Detective Jonah O'Roak, Detective Benjamin Sweeney, and Sergeant Chris Tremblay—should be dismissed because Grendell's complaint does not allege that they engaged in wrongful conduct. Grendell maintains that the motions to dismiss should be denied as to these nine individual Defendants because they witnessed the events of June 28 and 29 and took no preventative action to prevent the bombing and shooting.3

"[A] bystander-officer who has a realistic opportunity to prevent the use of excessive force by a fellow officer may in certain circumstances be held liable for a failure to intervene [under § 1983]." Calvi v. Knox Cty., 470 F.3d 422, 428 n.3 (1stCir. 2006). However, an officer's "mere presence at the scene, without more, does not by some mysterious alchemy render him legally responsible . . . for the actions of a fellow officer." Id. at 428 (citing Gaudreault v. Municipality of Salem, 923 F.2d 203, 207 n.3 (1st Cir. 1990)). In evaluating whether an officer had a realistic opportunity to intervene, the duration of the incident is a "salient consideration." Morris v. Tivnan, No. CV 14-40164-DHH, 2017 WL 1217109, at *5 (D. Mass. Mar. 31, 2017) (collecting cases). Grendell's complaint alleges that his shootout with the police lasted about four hours and that law enforcement took at least forty-five minutes to plan and execute the bombing. I now evaluate the complaint's allegations against the nine individual Defendants for whom the Defendants seek dismissal, distinguishing between those whom the complaint alleges were present at the scene during the events of June 28 and 29 and those whom it does not.

1. Individual Defendants Not Alleged to Have Been Present at the Scene

Grendell's complaint contains little mention of Defendants Bonnevie, Burke, Campbell, Mills, O'Roak, or Sweeney. The complaint does not discuss Defendant O'Roak at all, and its only mention of Bonnevie, Burke, Mills, and Sweeney is that each is a member of the Maine State Police. The complaint describes Campbell similarly, but also alleges that he was the commander of the Crisis Negotiation Team, whom Detective Roy allegedly called "about contacting Grendell's physician or a mental health physician on communication with Grendell." ECF No. 1 ¶ 30. Thus, Grendell's complaint has not alleged that any of these six Defendants—Bonnevie, Burke, Campbell, Mills, O'Roak, or Sweeney—were present at the scene. Grendell's complaint does not allege that these individual Defendants were involved in thebombing or firefight or even had knowledge of them. On a motion to dismiss, "[m]erely reciting elements of a claim will not do, . . . [n]or will alleging facts that are too meager, vague, or conclusory to remove the possibility of relief from the realm of conjecture." Lydon v. Local 103, Int'l Bhd. of Elec. Workers, 770 F.3d 48, 53 (1st Cir. 2014) (internal citation and quotation marks omitted). Thus, the complaint does not plausibly state a claim against these six individual Defendants. See, e.g., Rolón-Merced v. Pesquera, Civil No. 14-1757 (DRD), 2017 WL 888219, at *6 (D.P.R. Mar. 6, 2017).

2. Individual Defendants Plausibly Alleged to Have Been Present at the Scene


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