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Report: Officers beat porcupines to death with batons while on duty

By Stephen Betts | Oct 06, 2020

Rockland — The two former Rockland police officers who were criminally charged last week, killed porcupines with their retractable batons multiple times while on duty, according to an investigator's report.

A third officer is accused of videotaping one of the alleged killings on a cellphone and posting it on Snapchat to a group of other officers.

Addison Cox, 27, of Warren and Michael A. Rolerson, 30, of Searsmont were both charged Oct. 2 with Class C aggravated animal cruelty and a misdemeanor count of night hunting.

Cox was also charged with misdemeanor unlawful use or possession of implements or aids. Rolerson was charged with misdemeanor illuminating wild animals or birds.

The alleged killing of the porcupines came to light when another officer reported the incident to superiors in late August after she learned about what occurred in early June.

The case was referred to the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office for an internal investigation, conducted by Detective Ron Rollins. Warden investigator Anderson handled the criminal investigation. Sagadahoc County Assistant District Attorney Mike Dumas is the prosecutor in the cases.

The report compiled by the Maine Game Warden investigator Kevin Anderson details interviews with several Rockland police officers about the incidents. The interviews were done during the first week of September.

Cox and Rolerson were fired Sept. 22 and were issued summonses for the criminal charges Oct. 2. A third officer, Officer Kenneth Smith (not Sgt. Kenneth Smith) is on administrative leave. Smith is accused of posting a video of Rolerson killing a porcupine in June.

Officers told the investigator there were two Snapchat groups within the Rockland Police Department — one named RPD Underground and the other called the Night Crew.

One officer told the investigator that most of the photos posted on the Snapchat groups were of family and were done to boost morale, which fell since the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

In early June, a video was posted of Rolerson using his baton and beating something on the ground, then returning to the cruiser saying, "I got him." A photo was then posted of a dead porcupine. Rolerson and another officer said Smith was the officer who posted the video.

Smith denied posting the video during an interview with the investigator but said he had posted many photos to the Snapchat groups. Once a Snapchat video is played it disappears.

Another officer told the investigators that at another time, he was in a cruiser with Rolerson on Bog Road in Rockland, when Rolerson suddenly slammed on the brakes, ran out of the cruiser, leaving the door open and beat a porcupine.

The fellow officer told the investigator he did not know what to do.

Rolerson told other officers he would sometimes pepper spray the porcupines before or after beating them.

One officer upon hearing of one of these incidents, drove up to Bog Road seven hours after the attack occurred and found the porcupine still alive and twitching. The officer considered killing the animal to end its suffering, but did not know if he should.

Both Rolerson and Cox admitted to the investigator they killed the porcupines, according to the warden's report. Both officers initially questioned whether they should speak to the investigator, but ended up talking.

In those interviews, both officers expressed regret for what they did.

Rolerson estimated he killed eight porcupines and Cox said he killed three, according to the report.

Rolerson told the investigator that it wasn't that he disliked porcupines, but that they were rodents and were always getting into his camp and doing damage. Rolerson said porcupines were also nuisances on the road.

Rolerson also told the investigator he suffers from post traumatic stress disorder after serving a tour in Afghanistan while in the Marine Corps.

Cox said he looked up to Rolerson and was trying to be like him. Cox also served in Afghanistan while in the Marines.

The other officers who either witnessed the killing of the porcupines or were told about it said nothing until Aug. 28 when one of the officers spoke with Officer Anne Griffith who had no knowledge of what had transpired. Griffith told the other officer that she was going to report the conduct and urged him to do the same, which he then did.

"Not only are these acts in violation of law and policy, they are also a disturbing representation of his character made known to his fellow officers, especially those who witnessed the events. Several of the officers, if not all, were lower in rank than Officer Rolerson.

"This was not dispatching a deer that was hit by a car, this was not dispatching a pest animal that may be a threat to humans or domesticated animals. These porcupines were in their natural habitat and causing no harm. Officer Rolerson not only chased the animal into the woods to kill it, but returned with a smile on his face and appeared as though he enjoyed it," according to an Aug. 29 statement from Officer Griffith to her supervisor.

"I am sickened and embarrassed by the actions taken by Officer Rolerson, Officer Cox and Officer Smith. I am ashamed that their actions were witnessed or known by younger, less experienced officers," Officer Griffith stated.

Sgt. Scott Redmun II also issued a report to Chief Chris Young Aug. 29 about the conduct of Cox and Rolerson.

"It's unprecedented that a Rockland police officer would be involved in these shameful acts. Residents of the city of Rockland recently were victimized by an individual breaking into their homes and stealing valuable items in the middle of the night. During this time, you have uniformed officers on the Bog Road brutally torturing and killing innocent animals," Redmun stated.

The sergeant said he was concerned about possible backlash that officers, who were not involved, will face.

Cox and Rolerson are scheduled to make an initial appearance in court Nov. 9. The court paperwork does not list defense attorneys for the two.

Joseph Piccone, the business agent for the Teamsters Union that represents Rockland officers, said Cox and Rolerson both filed a grievance, appealing their dismissals. Piccone said the appeal argues the chief did not have cause to terminate their employment.

Chief Young issued a statement Sept. 30 in connection to the firings.

"I wanted to take a moment and speak about the recent events involving two Rockland Police Officers and their termination from the agency. I understand many of you want to know the details around the termination of two Rockland Police Officers.

"I know that demands for police transparency are coming. I want you all to know that I agree with those demands and understand the frustration of not knowing exactly what transpired to cause two officers to be terminated.

"If it were up to me, you would have those details; you would know exactly what occurred and how it was dealt with. The reality of the situation is that Maine’s laws relating to employee discipline do not allow those details to be released at this time. I follow the law.

"Generally speaking, if an officer is alleged to have violated departmental policies, we would investigate that allegation. If the allegation could lead to serious consequences for the officer if true, I may choose to have an outside agency conduct the internal investigation to determine if departmental policies were violated. If there were an allegation of criminal conduct, I may, and likely would, request an outside agency conduct the criminal investigation concurrently.

"In many cases, it would make sense to have any investigations be conducted by outside agencies who have had little to no contact with the officer involved. Having outside entities investigate allegations of serious misconduct helps to ensure a fair and impartial investigation, for both the officer and the community.

"If the allegation involved conduct which could cause an officer to be de-certified by the Maine Criminal Justice Academy, Chiefs of Police are required by law to report that to the Academy. There, the Academy’s Board of Trustees review the matter, and can choose to take action on the officer’s Academy certification. A tremendous amount of power is given to those who wear a badge and are tasked with protecting their communities; it’s a power that I do not take lightly.

"I’m asking you to trust that, if there were an allegation of police misconduct, I would take it very seriously and any investigation would be conducted appropriately, always placing public safety and community trust at the fore front," the chief concluded in his statement.

Officer Cox was with the Rockland department since 2016. He served earlier in the Marines in Romania and Afghanistan. In 2017, he was one of three Rockland officers who received the department’s “Meritorious Service Award" for thwarting a kidnapping in 2016.

In 2018, he received the “Life Saving Award” from the Maine Chiefs of Police Association for his actions Jan. 31, 2018, in saving a man who suffered a severe cut following an assault.

In 2017, he was hailed as the hero of wild animals. The officer helped return a baby raccoon to the woods, and helped a skunk that got its head stuck in a peanut butter jar.

Officer Rolerson has been with the Rockland department since 2018. he was previously enlisted in the Marines, serving in the Pacific and deploying to the Helmand province in Afghanistan.

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Comments (13)
Posted by: SUZANNE WILLIAMS | Oct 07, 2020 13:31

Totally despicable and heartbreaking! PTSD is not an excuse. A lot of our men came back from serving honorably in many areas but they did not chase innocent wild animals into the woods and beat them to death. Think what might have happened if they ran across a young teen (or anyone) that caused them to react in such a way. They should not be on the police force. We do not need to have men like this seeing to public safety.

Posted by: MIchael or Rhonda Smith | Oct 06, 2020 19:27

Stephen Carroll , my grandfather served in WWII. He was a pathfinder who saw tons of action . He was shot several times .  After coming home , he managed to go to college , get a degree , and spend 35 years educating high school kids without lashing out and hurting anyone or anything .  PTSD is not an excuse for acting without honor .

Posted by: MIchael or Rhonda Smith | Oct 06, 2020 19:27

Stephen Carroll , my grandfather served in WWII. He was a pathfinder who saw tons of action . He was shot several times .  After coming home , he managed to go to college , get a degree , and spend 35 years educating high school kids without lashing out and hurting anyone or anything .  PTSD is not an excuse for acting without honor .

Posted by: Laura Martz | Oct 06, 2020 14:54

So the one beat animals to death on up to 8 different occasions and the other one beat 3 animals to death because he looked up to the other one and wanted to be like him?

Posted by: Jeannie L. Wood | Oct 06, 2020 14:31

PTS & he runs around with a gun LOL hmm who hired this guy ? . S. Wood

Posted by: Dorinda Jacobs | Oct 06, 2020 13:42

In a word, pathetic.

Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Oct 06, 2020 13:08

WW11  flying aces had kill symbols on their planes. The Rockland PD Can put decals of porcupines on the cruiser fenders.

Posted by: Crawford L Robinson | Oct 06, 2020 12:05

Take away their batons and other 'implements and aids' and lock them up with a dozen angry porcupines for a little hand to hand combat practice. I'll put my money on the porcupines coming out the victors.

Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Oct 06, 2020 09:50

Joseph Piccone of the Teamster Union thinks it is okay for the taxpayers of Rockland to keep two officers employed that feel the need to beat animals to death? Instead of making excuses for these two he needs to let his brotherhood know these actions will not be tolerated. This is a good example of a bad example. These guys got what they deserve and good union members suffer because Piccone comes to their rescue.



Posted by: George Terrien | Oct 06, 2020 09:50

Much as I sympathize with the observations raised here by Mr. Carroll, and condemn ourselves for tolerating our prolonged making of useless wars and their costs of all kinds to our society, I very much that hope we all think that qualification to serve our community as an officer of the law requires very high ratings in all aspects.  Psychological fitness must top the list if we will fulfill our duty to social, community, and civic well-being, especially during this time of division over the nature of policing.

I hope that Chief Young assures the presence, application, and discrimination of stringent psychological screening and training for every officer, regardless (or even especially in consideration) of personal history.  If Rockland has not already instituted EPIC training ( or its equivalent, this most unfortunate incident of police brutality must cause us and our department of public safety to incorporate its lessons.

This is a learning opportunity--let us not let it pass, and business as usual must not become our default.

Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Oct 06, 2020 08:51

Lets point out an important fact about both of these men that is being overlooked here.  Both were "Marines" a specialized class of soldier and both served in Afghaistan.  Our military takes impressionable young men and turn them into killing machines.  The rules are different over there in the field as they were for the many who served in Vietnam.  All were scared by what they saw and were asked to do then told when returning home, just forget all that.  It is  a difficult transition returning into society and perhaps being a police officer is not the best way to do that.  When you are trained to treat humans as marks and not  as feeling & caring individuals you are creating a real problem that our country is now experiencing.  If you want to find the rot you need to dig a little deeper.  By the way, your elected representatives just voted overwhelmingly to continue funding the War in Afghanistan (the longest running conflict in modern history) and to increase the Presidents Military, budget, now more that all other countries combined.  Let's think about that for a moment.

Posted by: Valerie Wass | Oct 06, 2020 07:56

By using excuses as to why Rolerson and Cox did what they did, says a lot about their character.  So sad.

Posted by: Kathryn Fogg | Oct 06, 2020 07:47

I have never seen a porcupine in Rockland but plenty of raccoons. I am surprised these officers did not get a dose of quills. I wonder what would have happended to an offender sometime in the future from these men. It is heartbreaking to read that innocent animals could have been treated this way.  Not even shot but beaten to death.

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