Attorney Benjamin Gideon: Officer violated policy during fatal chase in midcoast Maine

Benjamin Gideon, an attorney with the Berman & Simmons law firm, is standing up for the family of a teenager from Rockland, Maine, who was killed in December at the end of a high-speed police chase.

Kara Brewer, 16, leaves behind a large family in midcoast Maine, including four siblings and two step-siblings. She was known for her adventurous spirit, love of fashion and beauty, and dream of becoming a cosmetologist.

On the night of Dec. 5, 2015, Brewer was a passenger in a Subaru Outback driven by 17-year-old Caleb Byras of Litchfield. Byras was speeding and was chased by a part-time police officer from Route 17 in Rockport onto Wotton’s Mill Road in Union, where the boy lost control of the vehicle and smashed into a tree. Byras and Brewer were killed, and a second passenger suffered minor injuries.

Reporter Stephen Betts of the Bangor Daily News has been following the tragedy that has affected people in Knox County and well beyond. His latest article in the BDN, published on March 20, examined whether the Rockport police officer violated state or local policies related to police pursuit. Chases have faced criticism in Maine and around the nation because of the dangers to bystanders and innocent passengers.

Betts interviewed Gideon, who said the part-time officer violated accepted police practices, as well as the town of Rockport’s own policy, when he pursued Byras.

First off, Gideon asserted, the policy states that only full-time law enforcement officers may engage in a high-speed pursuit. The policy also states that a law enforcement officer “shall not engage in high-speed pursuit if the operator is known” to the officer unless there is “a serious indication of further violent actions if not immediately apprehended.” The Rockport officer had pulled Byras over and issued him a ticket for speeding about an hour before the chase that ended with the fatal crash.

“I’m not saying the teen driver was not at fault, but the officer and the town share in the responsibility,” Gideon told the BDN. He said he planned to file a notice of claim, which is the precursor to the filing of a lawsuit.

Kara brewer police chase

Kara Brewer, 16, was killed during a high-speed police chase in Union, Maine, on Dec. 5, 2015.