December 12, 2012

Tormented by sexual abuse, man appears to commit ‘suicide by cop’

A longtime advocate for those molested at a Falmouth school for the deaf leaves police no choice but to shoot.

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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Family members say James Levier had been scarred by abuse he suffered as a child at the Governor Baxter School for the Deaf in Falmouth. Throughout his life he remained intent on finding some measure of justice for himself and others who were abused.

Family photo

His lawsuit against Scarborough police was rejected.

The legislative momentum on Baxter stalled. On March 7, a spokesman for then-Gov. Angus King testified that there was no money budgeted to pay victims and questioned the appropriateness of an official apology. Levier felt rebuffed again, and he was desperate.

The day he died, Levier spent an hour marching like a sentry in front of the Shop 'n Save Plaza at Oak Hill. A later investigation concluded that Levier understood commands to drop his gun and had indicated he wanted police to shoot him.

Police did arrange for an interpreter but would not let her get close enough to communicate with Levier through signing because of the danger posed by Levier.

Levier ultimately made the sign of the cross, took a shooter's stance, cocked the hammer of his rifle and sighted down the barrel toward a group of officers.

A state police sharpshooter fired into Levier's shoulder to disable him. Three Scarborough officers heard the shot, saw Levier's shoulder recoil and thought he was firing. They fired, shooting him four times.

He was declared dead at Maine Medical Center a short while later.

Within days, Gov. King issued an apology to the state's deaf community for the abuse that had occurred at Baxter years before. The Legislature also began approving compensation for victims, ultimately appropriating more than $17 million.

 

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