Friday, December 6, 2013
This story was revised at 12:45 p.m., Feb. 14, 2012, to include the resolution of Tenczar's criminal case.
Douglas Tenczar, left, confers with his attorney, Thomas Hallett, during court proceedings in August 2009 in connection with a 2008 road rage incident. On Monday, Tenczar filed suit, alleging that the deputies who investigated the road rage incident used excessive force.
2009 File Photo/Jack Milton
PORTLAND — A Sebago man whose right arm was amputated after he was shot by sheriff's deputies has filed a federal lawsuit alleging that police used excessive force.
Douglas Tenczar, 44, was shot at his home in October 2008 by deputies investigating a road rage incident during which he allegedly flashed a handgun at teenagers.
According to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court last week, Tenczar believed his home was being invaded when he grabbed an unloaded shotgun to frighten away what he thought were intruders. Tenczar said deputies pounded on his door and failed to identify themselves as law enforcement officers – a contention that deputies dispute.
Tenczar was shot multiple times and taken by helicopter to the hospital. His right arm – he was right-handed – was amputated near the shoulder, and he says in his complaint that he will likely require several hip replacements.
Tenczar's suit names as defendants Cumberland County Sheriff's Deputy Stephen Welsh and Sgt. David Hall – the two who shot him – as well as Deputy Peter Anderson, Sheriff Kevin Joyce, then-Sheriff Mark Dion and the county. The suit seeks unspecified compensation for his injuries, punitive damages, attorney's fees and other relief deemed proper by the court.
Michael Waxman, Tenczar's attorney in the civil proceeding, said his client is still working as a satellite dish installer but can no longer do things such as play the guitar. His suffering is ongoing, Waxman said, and he does not know whether there is any medical procedure that can relieve him of his pain.
"He is paying every single day of his life. Those nerves that have been surgically severed produce shooting pains every day," Waxman said.
On the evening of Oct. 22, 2008, a 19-year-old woman called to report a road rage incident near Tenczar's home and dispatchers could hear another teenage girl screaming that the other motorist had flashed a gun, authorities said. According to Tenczar's complaint, he hit the brakes because the other car was tailgating and he held a black cellphone out the window to indicate he was going to call 911.
According to the complaint, responding officers did not operate sirens or emergency lights and intentionally approached Tenczar's home stealthily. Welsh went to the back door, Hall went to the side door and Anderson was watching the front door. Hall pounded on the side door, the complaint said.
Tenczar, who had been sleeping on the kitchen floor, woke up and grabbed the shotgun from his bedroom, according to the complaint. He could not see anything outside and no outside lights were on, the complaint says.
Tenczar's blood-alcohol content was 0.28 percent, and he also had marijuana and a chemical used in sleeping pills and tranquilizers in his system, according to a report by the state Attorney General's Office.
Welsh and Hall fired their weapons as Tenczar advanced through the house. Authorities at the time said Tenczar was leveling the shotgun at the porch door, which Welsh was standing behind.
The complaint notes that an audio recording indicates there was a loud knock, an order to come to the door and a deputy saying "He's armed!" before four gunshots were fired – but no announcement that the deputies were law enforcement officers. The recording was captured by a remote microphone Anderson was wearing.
"Anybody can spin a set of facts to make it sound good, and I will say plaintiff's counsel has done a masterful job of that," said Peter Marchesi, the lawyer representing the county.
Marchesi said "objective" accounts indicate Tenczar brought the situation upon himself and that the officers acted appropriately.
On the audiotape, Tenczar said, when asked by the officers, that he had heard them identify themselves. Dion said shortly after the incident that he believed the deputies when they told him they had identified themselves.
In the related criminal case, Tenczar pleaded no contest to the misdemeanor charge of threatening display of a dangerous weapon and guilty to felony criminal threatening. As allowed under the plea agreement, he withdrew the felony guilty plea after a year and entered a guilty plea to a second count of misdemeanor threatening display of a dangerous weapon.
Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at: firstname.lastname@example.org