Two Maine police officers have been fired after being accused, according to a report in newspaper, of beating porcupines to death.
Earlier this month, a story in the Courier-Gazette, a weekly newspaper in Rockland, reported that two officers at the city police department had been charged with animal cruelty for beating porcupines to death. The report cited “an investigator’s report” obtained by the paper.
Court documents reveal the officers are Addison Cox and Michael Rolerson. Both are charged with aggravated cruelty to animals and night hunting.
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Cox is also charged with unlawful use or possession of implements or aids while Rolerson is additionally charged with illuminating wild animals or birds.
“Those are very serious charges,” said Natasha Irving, a district attorney whose office will be prosecuting the case, adding that “the outcry from the community has been very loud and very clear.”
In an interview Thursday, Irving would not speak in detail about the legal facts leading up to the case nor about what was enumerated in the Courier-Gazette’s report, saying that her “assumption is that somebody probably shared that information with the press” and that “nobody from our office would do that or did do that; no one from the Rockland Police Department would do that.”
However, Irving did say the public should expect a criminal trial against the officers and that her office is “prosecuting them with one of our best prosecutors in the district and we are not treating them any differently because they are police officers.”
Two weeks ago, Rockland Police Chief Chris Young addressed the officers’ “termination from the agency” in a Facebook post on the police department’s official Facebook page.
In the post, Young says:
“I understand that many of you want to know the details around the termination of two Rockland Police Officers.
I know that demands for police transparency are coming. I want you all to know that I agree with those demands and understand the frustration of not knowing exactly what transpired to cause two officers to be terminated.
If it were up to me you would have those details; you would know exactly what occurred and how it was dealt with.
The reality of the situation is that Maine’s laws relating to employee discipline do not allow those details to be released at this time.
I follow the law.”
Young also said in the post that, “In many cases, it would make sense to have any investigations be conducted by outside agencies who have had little to no contact with the officer involved.”
According to Chief Deputy Rand Maker of the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, that agency was asked by Rockland police to complete an investigation, but the details of what it contained would be in the possession of Rockland police and were not something he could disclose.
Mark Latti, a spokesman for Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, said that agency had also been involved in the case but he could not elaborate fully on how.
A voicemail left on Addison Cox’s cell phone by NECN was not immediately returned.
Steve Smith, an attorney for Michael Rolerson, gave this written statement:
“Mike is a decorated veteran, a dedicated police officer and a loving family man. He and his family have been devastated by these accusations. This is not an opportunity for some activist to score cheap points on a police officer.
Whoever is leaking supposed police reports to hurt Mike needs to take a long look in the mirror because that is a crime. We will deal with these accusations through the courts-not the media.”
The former officers are expected to appear in court in Rockland on Nov. 9.