ALFRED – A Biddeford woman who police say was shot twice by her landlord just before he killed her son and the son’s girlfriend has filed a lawsuit seeking at least $1 million in damages.
Susan Johnson, 44, is suing James Pak and his wife, Armit Pak, on eight counts ranging from assault to intentional infliction of emotional distress in the shooting Dec. 29 and in the months of harassment that preceded it.
In the lawsuit, filed late last month in York County Superior Court, Johnson calls for the Paks to “adequately compensate (her) for her injuries and damages, including compensatory and punitive damages and attorney fees, and impose interest, costs and all other relief that this court deems just and proper.”
The Paks have not filed a response, and documents did not indicate whether they had an attorney in the lawsuit.
James Pak, 74, is charged with murdering Derrick Thompson, 19, and his girlfriend, Alivia Welch, 18, and attempting to murder Johnson. All three were shot at close range with a .357 revolver. Johnson was shot in the back and the right arm. Thompson and Welch were both shot in the chest.
Pak was arrested about three hours after the shootings and has been held without bail since then.
The lawsuit sheds more light on the events of Dec. 29 and the exchanges between Pak and his tenants in the preceding weeks. It largely mirrors the account in the police affidavit filed in support of the murder charge against Pak.
Johnson’s attorney, Twain Braden, laid out her account in a 22-page complaint.
In it, Johnson says she inquired in September about renting an apartment that is connected to the Paks’ home on Sokokis Road in Biddeford. She looked at the apartment twice, once alone and once with her son, who was going to live with her.
The two moved in on Sept. 30 after paying $900 for the first month’s rent plus $900 for a security deposit.
Almost immediately, Johnson says, they clashed with James Pak, mainly over Thompson’s girlfriend, Welch, who stayed at the apartment frequently.
Pak and his wife told Johnson that they would be charged an additional $200 a month if a third person was going to live there, the lawsuit says.
Johnson says she told Pak that Welch was not living there and that she and her son were entitled to have visitors.
Pak continued to pester the mother and son about Welch’s visits and other things, the lawsuit says, such as the level of heating oil and the fact that the tenants were keeping belongings in the Paks’ garage.
Johnson says Pak confronted her son about 10 times from October to December.
“He was frequently abusive, shouted constantly in his confrontations, made lewd gestures at Derrick and, when someone else was attempting to speak, had a habit of holding up his hands (and) moving his fingers in the manner of a puppet,” the complaint reads.
Johnson says Armit Pak often apologized for her husband’s behavior.
The tension escalated in December, when Johnson was late paying that month’s rent, the lawsuit says. Johnson told Pak that she would pay it only if he made improvements to the apartment and stopped harassing her and her son.
On Dec. 17, Johnson says, she found what she thought was an eviction notice on the door, but discovered when she called the court that no notice had been filed.
Johnson later paid the rent, but Armit Pak told her they had to talk, the lawsuit says. The parties were scheduled to talk before Christmas, but Armit Pak came to the tenants’ door on Christmas Eve with a plate of cookies and said the talk could wait until after the holidays.
On Dec. 28, the Paks left a note on the apartment door demanding a meeting the next day, the lawsuit says. Johnson and Thompson left a note in reply, asking if they could meet the next week.
When Johnson, Thompson and Welch returned to the apartment on Dec. 29, James Pak met them in the driveway, Johnson’s lawsuit says. He called them “filthy animals” and pointed an index finger at Thompson, with his thumb raised in the shape of a gun.
At 6:07 p.m., Thompson called 911, the lawsuit says, and police advised him to stay in the apartment. An officer arrived in a few minutes, speaking first with Johnson and Thompson, then with the Paks.
After a second police officer arrived, the officers concluded that the dispute was a civil matter, not a criminal matter, and should be handled in court. The officers left the home about 6:51 p.m.
Less than a minute later, the lawsuit says, Pak opened the apartment door, said, “I am going to shoot you. I am going to shoot you all,” and pulled a handgun from behind his back.
He fired at Johnson first, hitting her in the back and again in the right arm. He then shot Thompson in the chest at close range and did the same to Welch, the lawsuit says.
He said he would “spare your little boy,” referring to Johnson’s 6-year-old son, who was in a back bedroom during the shooting.
Johnson called 911, but the two teenagers were dead by the time emergency responders arrived.
The Portland Press Herald has sued the state, seeking the transcripts of the 911 calls made that night and 911 transcripts for all open murder investigations. That lawsuit is pending.
Johnson was taken to Maine Medical Center in Portland for treatment of her gunshot wounds. She was released on Jan. 6 to attend her son’s funeral, but has continued physical therapy and counseling and has missed six weeks of work so far, her lawsuit says.
The lawsuit seeks damages to cover “additional medical costs for ongoing treatment … for months and perhaps years to come,” and also for “permanent physical scarring and psychological injuries.”
Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at: