PORTLAND — David Norton, 45, senior communications specialist for the University of Maine System, died unexpectedly on Oct. 15 after he was found in his Portland office on Oct. 10.
Public Safety officer Jeff Soper responded to a call from another USM staff member concerned because Norton had not been present or in communication for a few days. The Public Safety log shows that officer Soper received the call at 7:44 a.m. on the morning of Oct. 10, and he answered the call shortly after, finding Norton in his office on the second floor of the Portland Science Building.
The door had been closed and locked, and a curtain over the door window prevented any co-workers or passers-by from seeing Norton inside. Norton was alive, although reportedly barely breathing when he was found and in a state of medical emergency requiring immediate care. He was taken to Maine Medical Center where he died five days later.
According to Public Safety, Norton had been in his office Friday evening and made outgoing calls. That was the last recorded communication from his office.
Although it could not be confirmed because the university has refused to release any report to The Free Press, one university employee and a good friend of Norton who preferred to remain unnamed said Norton had been in his office over the duration of October break. That would mean Norton had been confined to his office from Oct. 5 to Oct. 10 when he was found by officer Soper.
“It would be difficult to say exactly when he came into his office,” said Director of Public Safety Kevin Conger.
One source, who also requested anonymity, said medical personnel determined Norton had suffered a stroke, although it could not be confirmed by university officials or documentation, and Chief Conger would not comment on Norton’s health status or cause of death due to patient privacy laws.
Norton’s vehicle was parked in lot D1, the faculty parking lot behind Luther Bonney Hall, in which overnight parking is not allowed. During the time that Norton’s car was parked in the lot, he was issued three parking citations by Public Safety. Asked who issued the tickets, Conger responded that “various officers” had given the tickets, although he could not confirm their names. The Free Press is still waiting on the name or names of the officers who issued the tickets.
Chief Conger responded to questions about campus parking, saying it was common for a person to leave his or her vehicle for an extended period of time knowing that it might be ticketed repeatedly. “If something happened and the garage was closed, sometimes people just roll the dice,” he said.
The previously mentioned university employee and friend of Norton who spoke with The Free Press stressed that it was concerning that Public Safety was not alarmed by Norton’s car after days of being abandoned in the lot. This source also had questions about regular patrol protocol.
Craig Hutchinson, chief student affairs officer, responded to a question about protocol on the patrolling of office buildings in a statement to The Free Press. “This function is performed by on-duty Public Safety staff but in a random pattern and certainly does not include a patrolling or checking of all building rooms and offices. This would be an impossible requirement for limited staff, 80 or so buildings (on the Gorham and Portland campuses) and a large array of calls for the officer(s) on duty on any given shift to respond to.”
Statistics from a 2007 report provided to The Free Press by USM Public Affairs show that there are around 1,300 offices and 93 office buildings at USM across three campuses, although public safety does not respond to emergency calls at the Lewiston-Auburn campus. Public Affairs did caution that these numbers may have changed since the report was issued.