A relative of the man who led police on a dangerous, high-speed chase this week said she begged Brunswick police to take him into custody and get him to a hospital hours before the pursuit began.

But Brunswick officers refused and told Trista Toothaker, 32, that there was nothing they could do. Although her uncle, David Stoddard, 49, was acting irrationally and speaking in gibberish, police permitted Stoddard to drive away from the Fairfield Inn on Old Portland Road on Tuesday morning, Toothaker said.

David Stoddard Photo courtesy York County Jail

Stoddard hadn’t committed a crime, the officers told her, so they could no nothing. If he drove erratically, another department would likely stop him, Toothaker recalled.

They were right: A couple hours later, six motorists reported Stoddard was weaving dangerously in and out of three lanes of traffic along the Maine Turnpike in Kennebunk in a 2002 Ford F-250 pulling a U-Haul trailer. He then led police on a 24-mile chase that ended with two injured police officers, two wrecked police cars and miles of highway littered with debris that he threw at officers as he drove. The traffic backup caused by the chase also led to a collision that killed a Falmouth couple.

Stoddard now faces three counts each of assaulting an officer and reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon; two counts of aggravated assault, and one count of eluding an officer.

During his first court appearance, on Friday, a judge ordered him to undergo a psychiatric evaluation and be held on $100,000 bail.

“It’s been hard the past couple days, beating myself up, thinking what more could I have done?” Toothaker said Friday. “But this wasn’t just one incident. They knew this was going to happen. The police. Mid Coast Hospital. Our family called them multiple, multiple times.”

“I wish something more would have been done. I was very clear with them. He was a danger,” Toothaker said. “And it’s just sad that they knew something had to happen, too, but couldn’t do anything.”

Brunswick Police Chief Scott J. Stewart said that, for police to take someone into protective custody, they must base decisions on the available information and whether it shows someone poses an imminent threat of substantial harm to themselves or others.

“Brunswick Police officers responded to the hotel around 10 a.m. and determined that Mr. Stoddard had not broken any laws and was not an immediate risk of danger to himself or others,” Stewart said. “We share the family’s and public’s frustration, however, we need to make decisions based on evidence presented to us at the time and consider public safety balanced with constitutional rights.”

Brunswick police had at least three encounters with Stoddard starting in October that led the department to confiscate two guns because it determined that he posed a danger.

In a report filed in support of that order to prohibit him from possessing firearms, the Brunswick police described how Stoddard’s mental health was in decline and his family believed he was suicidal and might attempt to be killed by police, court records show.

On Oct. 7, Stoddard became aggressive at a convenience store, getting angry after someone gave him the middle finger, court records state. He ended up leaving his identification on the counter and when police found him, he began stripping off his clothes and rambling about being angry at society, police wrote.

The next day, Stoddard’s ex-girlfriend contacted Brunswick police to tell them of more concerning behavior. He was having angry outbursts, thought of himself as worthless and stopped seeing a counselor and refused to continue mental health treatment. Stoddard also owned a rifle and a shotgun, she said.

On Oct. 9, Stoddard acted aggressively toward a hotel clerk, triggering another police call. When officers made contact with Stoddard’s son, he told them his father might try to get killed by officers when they approached him by putting his hands in his pockets and telling police he had a gun.

Later that evening, Stoddard showed up at another relative’s home on Harpswell Road with the shotgun. Police subdued him with a stun gun, confiscated the shotgun, and petitioned the court to prohibit Stoddard from possessing a weapon. He was taken to Mid Coast Hospital, but he was let go after an evaluation, Toothaker said.

Toothaker said that when she left the encounter with her uncle at the hotel on Tuesday she was frustrated and shaken, and went back to Mid Coast Hospital to try to find a way to get her uncle into treatment, she said. But it was already too late. Shortly after 1 p.m., Stoddard refused to stop for a state trooper, initiating a dangerous, high-speed chase that ended a few miles shy of the New Hampshire state line.

When police finally disabled his hulking truck, Stoddard fled from the cab, hopped a traffic bollard and lay down in oncoming traffic, police said.

Related Headlines

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: