A Millinocket man shot by police seven years ago in a confrontation over a set of tractor keys has settled his excessive force lawsuit against an Ellsworth police officer for nearly $10,000.
Jeffrey Paul Barnard, 57, was shot in the face by Maine State Police Trooper Scott Duff following a nearly 20-hour standoff in Ellsworth on June 1, 2014, that began with a dispute over Barnard allegedly allowing friends to use a tractor that didn’t belong to him.
Duff was part of the tactical team called in to assist Ellsworth officers Troy Bires and Bart Tokas.
Barnard sued the three officers and others in federal court in June 2016, but U.S. District Judge John Woodcock dismissed Duff from the lawsuit in August 2018, agreeing with the Maine Attorney General’s office that the trooper was justified in shooting Barnard.
The case was to be tried next month before a jury in U.S. District Court in Bangor on the only remaining claim — that Bires pointed his service weapon at Barnard’s head while he was unarmed for five minutes and “threatened to blow his head off” after he’d shown Bires his empty hands.
Bires, who is now Ellsworth’s deputy police chief, denied doing that, saying that he held his pistol by his side pointed at the ground after Barnard refused to show his hands.
As a result of the standoff, Barnard was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm in federal court. He was barred from having the rifle he pointed at police during the standoff due to previous federal convictions for illegally possessing firearms.
Barnard, whose arrest followed an 18-day hospital stay, pleaded guilty in June 2016 and was sentenced the following January to 6 1/2 years in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release. The time Barnard was held after his arrest was applied to his sentence.
He was released from federal prison in December 2019 but was rearrested less than a month later for violating his supervised release by smoking marijuana, claiming he used it for medical purposes.
While medical marijuana is legal in Maine and many other states, it is still illegal under federal law. In July 2020, Barnard admitted to violating his supervised release and was sentenced to time served, about seven months.
Barnard sued the three law enforcement officers involved in the Ellsworth confrontation a few days before he entered the guilty plea in the criminal case, alleging that police used excessive force to take him into custody. The case moved slowly as Barnard repeatedly asked for and was refused a court-appointed attorney and he was incarcerated at different federal prisons.
Michael Carey and Peter Brann of Lewiston agreed to represent Barnard in April of this year.
After dozens of filings, a timeline of the incident that led to Barnard’s shooting emerged.
Bires was dispatched at about 8:25 a.m. on May 31, 2014, to Barnard’s camper that was parked in the driveway of 303 North Road in Ellsworth. Barnard and the owner of the home were in a dispute over Barnard allegedly allowing his friends to use the homeowner’s tractor, according to Edward Benjamin, the Portland attorney who represented Bires.
The standoff began around 9 a.m. and continued until Duff, who was part of a state police tactical team that arrived overnight, shot Barnard around 3:30 a.m. the next morning, Benjamin said.
Before he was shot, Barnard fired a rifle at the tactical team members, who were trying to force him and his wife out of the trailer by injecting tear gas, Benjamin said.
“At the time of the shooting in the early morning hours of June 1, both Officer Bires and Officer Tokas were long gone from the scene,” he said.
Through Carey, Barnard disputed Benjamin’s account and said he planned to lay out his version of events in an appeal.
That appeal may include defendants previously dismissed from the lawsuit but will not include Bires, the city of Ellsworth or any of its employees, according to the terms of the settlement.
The town’s insurance policy through the Maine Municipal Association Property and Casualty Pool will cover the $9,850 settlement to Barnard and the Ellsworth officers’ attorney fees.