Two Cumberland County men who were arrested nearly two years ago filed a federal lawsuit this week against a Portland police officer claiming he used excessive force and attacked them while they were handcuffed.

The two men, Eric Lund of Windham and Jeffrey Staples of Standish, allege in the suit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Portland that Officer Eric McCusker threatened them and injured them both after finding them hiding in the tall grass near the railroad tracks off Canco Road on Sept. 9. 2012.

McCusker’s attorney, Michael Cunniff, said he had already been cleared once of any wrongdoing in the 2012 incident following an internal affairs investigation by the Portland Police Department in response to an earlier administrative complaint filed by the men.

“This is a very, very defensible case,” Cunniff said of the federal suit.

Attorney Robert Levine, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of Lund and Staples, said he waited to file a suit until Portland police completed their lengthy internal investigation.

“We went through the process,” Levine said. “At that point, having been through internal affairs, the only redress was to file suit.”

Lund and Staples were both charged in the 2012 incident with possession of burglary tools, though they deny in the lawsuit that they were there with intent to commit a burglary.

McCusker and another police officer tracked Lund and Staples using a police dog after receiving a call around 10:30 p.m. from a security officer at Central Maine Power who reported two men walking along the fence line behind the power company’s storage yard at 162 Canco Road, according to the lawsuit.

“The two men were hiding in the tall grass, thinking they were being pursued by drug dealers, not the police,” Levine wrote in the six-page claim seeking an unspecified amount of money. “Both men cooperated fully with police commands, did not resist arrest, nor (sic) fail to comply in any way. They put their hands in the air as directed. They were not disrespectful. They did everything they were asked to do.”

The two men accuse McCusker in the lawsuit of threatening to have his partner release the police dog to “chew the skin off” their faces.

They also accused McCusker of punching Staples in the face, breaking one of his teeth, and of slamming his knee into Lund’s side, fracturing his rib.

Levine said that Staples was held after his arrest on a probation violation and ultimately pleaded guilty to the possession of burglary tools charge for a sentence of time he had already served. Lund pleaded not guilty to the charge against him and the case was dismissed due to insufficient evidence.

Cunniff said he was limited in what he could say while the case is pending under federal court rules and declined to address the specifics of the allegations against McCusker.

“I will be filing an answer to the complaint on behalf of Officer McCusker probably next week. That answer will categorically deny the conduct alleged in the complaint,” Cunniff said. “I anticipate that the evidence produced over the course of the litigation of the civil lawsuit will exonerate Officer McCusker of the allegations of misconduct.”

Neither the city of Portland nor the Portland Police Department are named as defendants in the suit.

Scott Dolan can be reached at 791-6304 or at:

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Twitter: @scottddolan