Portland Police Chief Frank Clark holds a media conference outside the department’s Middle Street headquarters Monday afternoon. Police say multiple shots were fired into the department’s parking garage, next to the police station, on Sunday evening. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Portland police are alerting officers to the possibility of heightened threats against them after a series of incidents over the weekend – including gunshots fired into the department’s parking garage and fireworks directed at officers patrolling the Kennedy Park area, according to police.

The shooting on Sunday and several incidents involving fireworks are the product of a national climate of hostility toward police, Police Chief Frank Clark said at media conference Monday afternoon. The shooting at the department’s garage, which is connected to headquarters at 109 Middle St., was the most upsetting, he said.

“Officers here and around the country have been targeted for wearing a badge and for what they represent,” Clark said of social unrest in the wake of George Floyd’s death while in police custody in Minneapolis. “As you can imagine, this is very personal, both to me and to the officers here and to our profession and I think to the community as a whole for what we represent here in the city.

“Coming at a time when our police officers and others around the country are being broadly and directly vilified, based upon the actions of a few, (it) makes it that much more concerning and demoralizing here for our department.”

The shooting occurred after 10:30 p.m. Sunday, when a dark-colored sedan drove by the entrance to the police parking garage on Newbury Street and someone inside the vehicle fired several rounds into the garage, striking a police car, Clark said. No one was injured, but at the time, there was an officer in the garage near where the shooting took place.

Police say they found a handgun ditched nearby that they believe was used in the shooting. The vehicle they believe was involved was stopped in Portland at about midnight and has been impounded pending the approval of a search warrant, Clark said.

Investigators have also developed a person of interest in the shooting, but Clark declined to discuss whether that person was driving the vehicle or was somehow connected to the firearm that was recovered, and declined to answer other questions about the person. Police declined to say where the person is from or whether that person was in custody.

Since late June, officers have also had fireworks aimed at them in the Kennedy Park area, according to police.

After midnight on Sunday morning, police officers who responded to an alleged assault on the Kennedy Park basketball courts were targeted by people who shot fireworks at them, Martin said.

“We were there rendering aid, and as we were rendering aid (to an injured person), we were attacked by people shooting fireworks at us,” said Portland Police Lt. Robert Martin. “We had extricated the person to a safe location.”

The first documented case of fireworks being directed at officers was on June 26, when a cruiser was damaged by a firework mortar. Since then, three police vehicles have been damaged, Martin said, causing scorch marks and dents.

The vehicles were either on routine patrol in the Kennedy Park area, or were responding to other noise complaints when they were attacked, Martin said.

Last Thursday, Chief Frank Clark and District Attorney Jonathan Sahrbeck attended a community meeting to address concerns that fireworks had become a threat to safety in the East Bayside neighborhood.

Requests for an interview with the East Bayside Neighborhood Organization for this story were not returned Monday evening.

Compared to last year, complaints about fireworks were up in June, according to Portland police. Complaints have been centered on North Street, Eben Hill Drive and Riverton Drive, said police Lt. Robert Martin, with other calls scattered across the city.

In June 2019, Martin said, there were 36 fireworks-related calls. This year in the same month, there were 99 calls, but he said it was unclear from the data if those counts also included South Portland, whose calls are dispatched from the Portland Police Department.

Although some fireworks are legal in Maine, it is against city ordinance to set them off in Portland and punishable by a $200 fine. Before the Fourth of July holiday weekend, Clark asked residents to obey the ordinance, but also said that if residents chose to shoot off fireworks, that they practice common sense and take personal responsibility for their conduct.

“This is just senseless,” Clark said. “Its dangerous, it’s unacceptable, and it must stop now.”

Related Headlines

Comments are not available on this story.