Gunman’s weapon discharges when thrown during Rumford police pursuit

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RUMFORD — Police say a Portland man created a frightening situation early Saturday morning when he threw a handgun and it discharged as police were chasing him on foot.

The .380-caliber bullet didn’t hit either of the two Rumford officers in close pursuit or anyone else, police said.

Police initially thought a person had been hit when someone in a nearby third-floor apartment called 911 saying they’d been shot. That turned out to be not true, police said.

Abdi Awad, 25, was arrested early Saturday morning by Rumford Detective Sgt. James Bernard on charges of felony violation of bail, reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon and refusal to submit to arrest or detention.

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Also arrested was Awad’s friend, Francis Mezan, 21, on charges of felony violation of bail and trafficking in crack cocaine.

Both men were denied bail and taken to Oxford County Jail in Paris. They are to be arraigned on July 16 in Oxford County Superior Court.

Bernard said late Saturday morning that the incident happened as local, county and state police were participating in an underage drinking detail Friday night into Saturday morning.

Bernard said he and Rumford officer Joseph Sage were on foot patrol in the area of Oxford Avenue and Rangeley Place when they spotted Awad and another black man.

Both officers knew that Awad was free on bail, having been arrested on charges of violating bail conditions on April 14 during a traffic stop in Rumford.

When Bernard attempted to speak with Awad late Friday night, he fled, the detective said.

“We pursued (Awad) down Byron Street (by flashlight) and he ducked out between two buildings,” Bernard said. “When I came around the corner to pursue him farther, boom! I heard a gunshot. It was loud.”

He said he spun around thinking he’d been shot.

“Shots fired!” he immediately radioed.

At about the same time, Bernard said he spotted Awad with his hands up and ordered him to the ground at gunpoint with officer Sage assisting.

“As soon as I was able to get him on the ground at gunpoint, I called for backup,” Bernard said. “It was a pretty hair-raising incident.”

“This whole scenario played out pretty quickly,” he said. “There was a point in time to where I had to step back and make sure I was OK and (Sage) was OK.”

“It was a pretty tense situation for a few minutes, because the overflow crowd from The Barnboard (Lounge) had gathered on the street, so there was a lot of people to deal with.”

They handcuffed Awad and found the pistol about 45 feet away. Backup arrived quickly, Bernard said.

He said police went to the house where Awad was visiting, knocked and asked everyone to step outside.

That’s when they saw Mezan and did a bail check, knowing he’d been with Awad when officer Gallant arrested both on April 14.

“A search of Mezan revealed a large amount of crack cocaine on him, several grams,” Bernard said.

They also determined that Awad had had the gun, Bernard said.

He said the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement were involved in the investigation.

“With these charges, (Awad and Mezan) are possibly looking at getting deported,” Bernard said.

tkarkos@sunjournal.com

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