Armed vigilantes in Maine chop down tree, block driveway to force neighbor to self-quarantine amid coronavirus pandemic

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A group of armed vigilantes cut down a tree and dragged it across a man’s driveway in Maine to force him to quarantine in his home amid fears he could be infected with the coronavirus, officials said.

A man residing on Cripple Creek Road in Vinalhaven, an island off the coast of Maine, called authorities around 3:35 p.m. Friday to report a group of people with guns had cut down a large tree and dragged it in front of his driveway, blocking access to the main road.

The man said he left his house to check his property when he noticed the cable went out. The unidentified man said he retreated to his home and hailed the Coast Guard for help using a VHF radio after a neighbor began yelling at him to get indoors and remain quarantined.

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This photo uploaded by the Knox County Sheriff's Office on February 29, 2020, shows the night watch in North Haven, Maine.

This photo uploaded by the Knox County Sheriff's Office on February 29, 2020, shows the night watch in North Haven, Maine.

The armed group had dispersed before authorities arrived. Deputies with the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, along with the Maine Marine Patrol and a Coast Guard boarding party, responded to the scene. The incident remains under investigation.

“Deputies have learned that there is a general belief by some island residents that the Cripple Creek Residents are supposed to be quarantined because they came here from another state and could have COVID-19,” the Knox County Sheriff’s Office in Maine said in a Facebook post.

“Whether someone is a Maine resident or not, they have the right to free movement and anyone who infringes upon that free movement is potentially violating the law,” the post said.

The man and his two roommates have been living in Vinalhaven for about 30 days since coming from out-of-state, authorities said. Several towns in Maine have asked seasonal residents and outside visitors to self-quarantine to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Portland Press Herald reported.

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“If you are concerned about someone potentially being infected or not following the emergency rules or recommendations, please contact us,” the sheriff’s office continued in its post. “We want everyone to be informed about COVID-19 and the rules around it. We also want everyone to be safe and not overreact in this time of uncertainty as it could end poorly.”