A Patten man who died in police custody last week was wanted by law enforcement in the days leading up to his death for missing a February court date in Millinocket.

The man, 46-year-old Jeremy Lau, was arrested by officers from the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office and Maine State Police in the early morning hours on March 1. The officers were responding to a 911 call for help at a Patten home, and Lau was dead shortly after he was arrested.

The Maine attorney general’s office has released limited information on the circumstances leading up to Lau’s death, which the office is investigating. It hasn’t released information on the reason for the 911 call or how and where Lau died.

A review of Lau’s lengthy criminal record, however, shows that the Patten man was wanted for missing a court date that stemmed from a January encounter with the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office, in which he was accused of assaulting a sheriff’s deputy and kicking the windshield of the deputy’s cruiser, causing more than $1,000 in damage.

During that encounter on Jan. 7, Lau was arrested on an outstanding warrant and also charged with refusing to submit to arrest, criminal mischief and violating conditions of release. The Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office said he would also be charged with assaulting an officer, but that charge was never filed.

Lau was later released from bail on those charges, but didn’t show up for his February court date in Millinocket, resulting in another charge of failure to appear, according to Assistant District Attorney Chris Almy.

Lau had a criminal record in Maine dating back to at least 1996, cycling through the criminal justice system more than 30 times on charges ranging from theft and assault to drug trafficking.

In 1996, he was charged by the state police for obstructing government administration. In 2001, he was arrested by the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency out of Aroostook County for drug trafficking and served nine months behind bars.

After nearly a decade in and out of the criminal justice system, there was a year-and-a-half gap in charges against Lau from January 2020 through July 2021, before the most recent spate of charges leading up to his death.

Although an autopsy has been completed, the state medical examiner’s office has yet to identify or release a cause of death.

The attorney general’s office hasn’t released a timeline for its investigation. The Maine State Police declined to comment on the incident that led to Lau’s death and the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office did not respond to requests for comment last week.

Avatar photo

Sawyer Loftus

Sawyer Loftus is a reporter covering Old Town, Orono and the surrounding areas. A recent graduate of the University of Vermont, Sawyer grew up in Vermont where he's worked for Vermont Public Radio, The...