NORRIDGEWOCK, ME — Police surrounded a man’s home with sharpshooters and armed troopers and demanded his surrender through a megaphone after someone saw a tattoo of a gun on his stomach.
Michael Smith works the night shift and sleeps during the day. On the morning of March 18th, he was disturbed when he heard a loud racket in his front yard. It was a tree removal service backing into his driveway preparing to chopping branches around power lines.
Mr. Smith groggily stepped outside in his pajama pants to tell the tree trimmers to come back another time. They told him it was not a problem, reported the Morning Sentinel.
The only problem was that one of the workers saw Smith’s stomach tattoo and perceived it to be a real gun. Even though no threats had been made, the worker called police to report a “man with a gun.”
It should be noted that it is not a crime openly wear a handgun in the waistband in Maine. At home or in public; shirtless or clothed; quiet or shouting; open carry is a recognized right in that state and no justification for police intervention.
Despite this, Maine State Troopers picked up their rifles and produced a life-threatening standoff in front of Mr. Smith’s house.
After Smith had once again gone to bed, he was jolted awake by a loud commotion in his front yard. This time it was the sound of police loudspeakers. State Troopers and Sheriff’s deputies were outside aiming guns at his house and making demands.
Smith got out of bed again and surrendered to the police in his front yard, saying, “I got plans today. I didn’t want to get shot.”
The whole thing had been an embarrassing overreaction. Still, police stood by their dramatic response.
“Obviously it was a misunderstanding and he didn’t have a weapon, but we had to respond to the initial report as if he did,” Maine State Police Trooper Scott Duff said to the Morning Sentinel. “We take all precautions when we don’t have the details.”
“Man with a gun” calls — or MWAG — are infamously prone to dramatic police overreactions. Innocent citizens all over the country have been subjected to being harassed, handcuffed, proned out, had guns pointed at them, and otherwise bullied and threatened while doing absolutely nothing illegal or wrong.
If armed police officers were treated in such a way every time they were spotted with a pistol on their belt, they might understand the unfairness of this type of response.