BERLIN — A BearCat armored vehicle that was part of the execution of search warrants at 217 Main St. three years ago is at the center of a lawsuit recently filed against the police and city.
Dick Poulin, who has owned the Middle Earth store in Berlin’s downtown since 1969, said the lawsuit seeks $100,000 in damages. The suit claims his property, reputation and civil rights suffered “great harm” on Oct. 6, 2015.
On that date, police used the BearCat as part of the response to drug searches of two adjacent spaces, a music studio and a clothing print shop. Ricardy Roseaux, of Rumford, Maine, had been renting the spaces from Poulin for three years.
Roseaux was subsequently arrested and charged; in 2017 he pleaded guilty to selling Oxycodone and cocaine to a confidential informant.
Poulin on Thursday said while his former tenant was the subject of the criminal investigation, it wasn’t long after the search warrants were executed that the rumor mill began conjecturing about Poulin’s own involvement in illegal activities.
The rationale behind the rumors, Poulin said, is that the BearCat, per the Berlin Police Department’s publicly stated intentions for its use, would be employed only in true emergencies.
Having the BearCat on scene, he said, was so over the top that its presence alone “says I had something to do” with what Roseaux had been doing.
Poulin said the searches were conducted after Roseaux was in custody and had given police his keys to the studio and print shop; another set of keys was on the building in a Knox Box that could have been accessed by firefighters.
He said that as the false rumors began to circulate, sales at Middle Earth began to drop. Poulin said he struggled not only with reviving his business, but was diagnosed with prostate cancer. As both situations improved, he said he filed the lawsuit.
The lawsuit claims that police were not truthful in the application for the search warrants about the scope of the searches, and argues the searches improperly extended to two space that were under Poulin’s exclusive control.
Additionally, the lawsuit alleges that Police Chief Peter Morency and Deputy Chief Daniel Buteau hurt Poulin’s “good reputation” when they gave what the lawsuit said were “false statements” to the media about the extent of drug activity at 217 Main St. and the quantity of drugs seized there.
The city is a defendant because it is ultimately responsible for Police Department policies.
The City Council was apprised of Poulin’s lawsuit at its meeting on Monday. As a show of support for the police department, councilors voted to direct the city’s insurer and attorney not to settle out of court. There was one abstention by a councilor who participated in the searches.
According to minutes from that meeting, “Morency explained that there were a lot of issues with the address. The PD applied for a search warrant for a dangerous situation and went by a threat assessment.”
Poulin said police damaged five doors and several sections of drop ceiling at 217 Main St. He said he wonders why police never contacted him before the search warrants were executed.
“They could have called me and I would have said, ‘Go for it, knock yourselves out,’” said Poulin.