Cops & Courts
Updated December 7
Susan Johnson's lawsuit alleges police didn't do enough to prevent her landlord from wounding her and killing her son and his girlfriend in 2012.
A 911 call transcript showed landlord James Pak made death threats before he killed Derrick Thompson and Alivia Welch.
A lawsuit filed against the city of Biddeford by a woman who was wounded in a domestic shooting that killed her son and his girlfriend can move forward, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
U.S. District Judge Jon D. Levy rejected a motion by the city to dismiss the suit filed in July by Susan Johnson, who was wounded by her landlord, James Pak on Dec. 29, 2012. That night Pak, now 79, also shot and killed her son, Derrick Thompson, 19, and his girlfriend, Alivia Welch, 18.
The shooting grew out of a dispute involving parking and snow removal at an apartment on Sokokis Road in Biddeford. Police initially responded, but left after roughly 40 minutes when they concluded that the parking dispute was a civil matter.
Susan Johnson wipes a tear from her cheek as James Pak receives two life sentences in the 2012 murders of her son, Derrick Thompson, and his girlfriend, Alivia Welch, on Superior Court in Alfred on Feb. 11, 2016. Johnson, who was wounded in the attack, is suing the city of Biddeford, claiming police didn’t do enough to prevent the shooting. Whitney Hayward/Staff Photographer
Pak opened fire moments after police left the scene. He then called 911 to admit to the crime. Pak is currently serving a life sentence at Maine State Prison.
At issue in the lawsuit is whether the police did enough to prevent the shooting during their first visit to the home, whether officers were adequately trained, and whether their level of training could lead to injury or death. Johnson is seeking unspecified monetary damages.
The city contended in its motion to dismiss that Johnson’s deadline to file the lawsuit, set by state law at two years from when the underlying facts could have been discovered, had expired.
But Johnson’s lawsuit is based in part on investigative information gathered by police that could only be released by the Attorney General’s Office after Pak’s case was fully prosecuted, in line with a state law that prohibits the dissemination of information that could interfere with the prosecution of a crime, a police investigation, or that could be prejudicial if released publicly.
Following Pak’s guilty plea and sentencing in 2016, the information that was previously confidential was turned over to Johnson. It contained a recording of the conversation between Pak and Biddeford police before the shooting.
“James Pak admitted to threatening to shoot Thompson, Johnson and/or Welch,” according to the lawsuit. “Officer Dexter and/or Wolterbeek responded by telling Pak that he can’t make those types of threats. James Pak’s emotional state continued to heighten while speaking with Officer Dexter and/or Wolterbeek. James Pak told the Officer that he had a gun and if the Officer didn’t do something about the parking ‘there is going to be a bloody mess’ and that ‘they would see it in the news.’ ”
According to the lawsuit, neither officer searched Pak’s apartment for weapons, or arrested him for making threats.
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