Lewiston police officer Tom Murphy talks with people Wednesday about a fight in Kennedy Park late Tuesday night. Police had a larger-than-normal presence in the park Wednesday. Murphy said the 9 p.m. park curfew would be enforced Wednesday night. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

[UPDATE: Lewiston man dies from injuries sustained in Tuesday night fight]

LEWISTON — State and local police are investigating a Tuesday night melee near Kennedy Park that left one man hospitalized in critical condition.

Several of the victim’s friends told the Sun Journal on Wednesday that the man, said to be in his 30s, had died, although that information could not be confirmed Wednesday night.

A Maine State Police spokesman maintained Wednesday afternoon that the victim in this case remains in the hospital in critical condition and police are not aware of any death.

Witnesses said at least two dozen teenagers, preteens and adults were involved in the brawl.

“I just want my town to be the way it used to be,” Nick Vinciguerra said Wednesday, “where you could go out your door and go for a walk at 9 o’clock at night and not have to worry.” (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Nicholas Vinciguerra, who lives on Maple Street, said he and his longtime friends, whom he refers to as family, had been gathered in the park Tuesday night, many seeking “payback” for a previous confrontation, when gunfire from BB and pellet guns erupted from the open windows of a black car driving north on Bates Street.

Vinciguerra said he and his friends were hit by the BBs and pellets. Three men from the group ran after the car as it turned right onto Spruce Street, then left onto Knox Street.

Jennifer Hixon, 27, said she was standing around in the park with a group of regular friends when a shot from a pellet gun struck her in the side.

“Right here,” she said. “It got me right in the ribs.”

When the car stopped halfway down the block on Knox Street, Vinciguerra and his friend confronted the youths in the car and asked them why they had shot at them. Suddenly, the three men were surrounded by roughly 30 people swinging sticks, baseball bats and other weapons, Vinciguerra said.

“You could see they were swinging for the fences,” he said.

Some of the attackers picked up bricks and used them as weapons, Vinciguerra said.

“They had bats and sticks and rocks and steel pipes,” said an 18-year-old who identified himself as David. “They had everything. They were just coming in by the dozens. There were maybe 30 of them and eight of us. It was just a brawl. A bloodbath.”

Vinciguerra said he was told that his friend had been hit with a brick and was taken to the hospital, where police said he underwent surgery and was listed in critical condition. Vinciguerra said he heard his friend had died, but he wasn’t able to confirm that information with the hospital.

“I just want my town to be the way it used to be,” Vinciguerra said, “where you could go out your door and go for a walk at 9 o’clock at night and not have to worry.”

He said the assailants didn’t appear to have any motive other than to injure people.

This wasn’t the first time this type of incident had happened, Vinciguerra said. It began roughly two months ago. He said he and his friends and their families have been harassed in that area of downtown Lewiston recently and don’t feel safe walking alone there.

He said his group had gathered Tuesday night in anticipation of a confrontation.

“There was a plan by a lot of my friends that we were gonna get payback last night” and settle the feud, he said.

Vinciguerra said the three men appeared to have been lured into a trap Tuesday night.

“It wasn’t fun to watch,” he said. “I’ll be honest.”

He predicted the worst is yet to come.

“I’m trying to stop it before it happens,” he said.

By the time police arrived at the scene on Knox Street on Tuesday night, most of the brawlers had scattered, Vinciguerra said.

He said he didn’t believe law enforcement would bring the ongoing feud to a peaceful resolution.

“I don’t talk to the cops,” he said. “They don’t listen.”

There was a lot of similar mistrust in Kennedy Park on Wednesday afternoon as several people gathered to tell their stories.

Daniel Dennison, left, and Jennifer Hixon were involved in a Kennedy Park fight Tuesday night. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Daniel Dennison Sr., a 39-year-old with bruises around his right eye and the side of his nose, said he was among those who got jumped.

“They just started ganging up on us,” he said. “I got sucker punched and knocked to the ground. I tried to get back up and fight, but there were suddenly, like, 12 of them around me.”

David, the 18-year-old, said he had gone to the park after hearing that a group had plans to start a fight in Kennedy Park. What he didn’t expect, David said, was that there would be so many of them, or that they would be using such a wide range of weapons.

“I came down without any weapons at all,” he said. “I fight with my fists.”

A few weeks ago, a video began circulating on social media showing a group of people fighting with a smaller group in Kennedy Park.

That previous brawl, said Rich Finch, 44, began when a young man approached his wife in the park and asked to borrow a lighter. When Finch asked for the lighter back, he said, trouble began.

“One of the guy’s buddies came up behind me with a big stick and hit me in the head,” Finch said. “By the time I stood up, there were 25 or so of them surrounding me.”

According to police, the people involved in the May 17 incident refused to file complaints that would have led to an investigation, and the video circulating on social media is only a portion of what happened and does not portray what started the fight or whether anyone was injured.

“Now I’ve had a street brother get killed,” said Cynthia Stoddard, 27, “something needs to be done about this.”

Those hanging out in the park Wednesday complained that police don’t investigate these type of attacks as vigorously as they should.

“It’s like the police are scared,” said a woman named Lori, sitting on a bench Wednesday in the middle of Kennedy Park. “But they need to put a stop to it or there are going to be riots.”

Stoddard said she has a meeting with Lewiston Mayor Shane Bouchard. The mayor said he wouldn’t comment on the matter while it was being investigated.

Police Lt. David St. Pierre said there has been more tension at the park since the May 17 incident and that police are “definitely stepping up some patrols in the Kennedy Park area to hopefully address it and put an end to it, because it is concerning.”

“I wouldn’t say there’s some drastic uptick in calls there, but we are concerned because we’ve had a couple of incidents,” including the one Tuesday night, he said.

Police said Wednesday they would be enforcing a 9 p.m. curfew in the park. That means people will be allowed to move through the park but not congregate there.

On Wednesday, police were conducting interviews with those involved in the incident and planned to continue that work Thursday.

The case was turned over to Maine State Police because of the man’s medical condition. State Police investigate homicides in Lewiston.

Anyone who may have witnessed the Tuesday night brawl is urged to call the Lewiston Police Detective Division at 513-3138.

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