PORTLAND — A civil trial for police officers from two York County towns is scheduled to begin this morning in federal court.

Michael Fortin claims that a Wells police officer, Jacob Titcomb, and an Ogunquit officer, Matthew Buttrick, used excessive force against him during an arrest at his girlfriend’s apartment three years ago.

Fortin alleges that both officers assaulted him and one of them kicked him repeatedly in his left leg, permanently injuring his knee and making it impossible for him to earn a living as a carpenter or a laborer.

The officers say Fortin was drunk and under investigation for reportedly assaulting his girlfriend. They claim Fortin got physically aggressive while another officer was interviewing the girlfriend and they had to wrestle with him when he tried to interrupt the questioning. Titcomb and Buttrick deny kicking Fortin.

Fortin seeks financial compensation for his knee injuries, plus punitive damages for pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life. The civil trial in U.S. District Court is expected to last three days.

The incident happened on May 26, 2007. Police responded to a report of a domestic violence assault in a car that was traveling on Route 1 in Ogunquit. Officers from Wells and Ogunquit found the car at 256 N. Village Road in Wells.

According to the officers, Fortin was outside the apartment and told them no one was at home. He then went inside the apartment. Titcomb and Buttrick say they looked through a glass panel next to the front door and saw Fortin wrap his arm around the head of his girlfriend, Jill Verhow, in an apparent attempt to keep her from answering the door.

“Officer Titcomb called for backup officers,” Titcomb’s lawyer, Douglas Louison, wrote in a summary of the case. “A couple of minutes later, Ms. Verhow opened the door to the home and Officer Titcomb followed her a few feet inside.”

Verhow then stepped outside to speak with other officers. Titcomb and Buttrick say they told Fortin he could not go outside to speak with Verhow, but he tried to get by them and pushed his chest into the chest of Buttrick. The officers claim they used a reasonable degree of force to handcuff Fortin, arrest him and take him to jail.

Michael Feldman and Michael Turndorf, the lawyers representing Fortin, provide a different account of the events. They say their client did nothing to provoke the use of force by the officers.

“Officers Titcomb and Buttrick were holding plaintiff by the arms. One of the defendants was grasping plaintiff’s right arm and the other grasping plaintiff’s left arm,” Feldman wrote in a summary of the case filed with the court.

“Both defendants twisted plaintiff and one of the defendants was at that time kicking plaintiff in the left knee and leg, which action caused a rupture of three of the four ligaments attached to the plaintiff’s left knee.”

The key witnesses in the trial, other than Fortin and the two officers, will be Verhow and Dr. Thomas Murray, who is expected to testify about Fortin’s knee surgeries and the extent of his injuries.

 

Staff Writer Trevor Maxwell can be contacted at 791-6451 or at: [email protected]