PORTLAND — The State Medical Examiner says a 24-year-old Portland man shot during an altercation on India Street died of a gunshot wound to the chest.

Two other men were wounded in Wednesday’s predawn shooting. Matthew Blanchard’s death was the city’s first homicide of 2012.

An autopsy Wednesday morning at Maine Medical Center determined he died of a gunshot wound to the chest and that the manner of death was homicide, according to the Medical Examiner’s Office.

Blanchard and three other men, who friends say are his brothers, had walked downtown from an apartment in North Deering when they encountered two men about 1 a.m. Witnesses told police that a loud argument erupted and suddenly several shots were fired.

Blanchard and two of his friends were shot. All three men were taken to Maine Medical Center, where Blanchard was pronounced dead. Police Chief Michael Sauschuck would not describe Blanchard’s injuries.

Joshua Hersom, 24, and John Howard, 20, were treated for injuries that were not life-threatening, Sauschuck said. A 19-year-old who was with the men was not identified because he is classified as a witness, the chief said.

Police converged on the area after the shooting, with two officers coming from the corner of Washington and Cumberland avenues and two from the police station, a couple of blocks away.

Witnesses told police that they saw two men running west on Congress Street. Police believe one of the two was the gunman, and that he used a handgun.

At a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Sauschuck urged residents who might have seen the men running away to contact investigators at 874-8533 or send a text with the keyword “GOTCHA” to 274637.

On Wednesday morning, drops of blood remained on the sidewalk outside the apartment building at 105-107 India St. Angelina Badalucco, who lives on the second floor, said she woke up to what sounded like firecrackers and gunshots.

She walked to the front of the building and saw a young man, with a bicycle and a backpack next to him and blood on his arm, saying his friend had been shot. Another man was lying in a grassy patch next to the building and looked badly injured, she said.

Badalucco, who has lived in the building for three months, said she had never seen the men.

She said people often hang out in a concrete area in the back of the building, drinking and smoking. “I’m not surprised there was a confrontation and someone happened to have a weapon,” she said.

Blanchard was on a bicycle and his friends were on foot when the altercation broke out in front of 105 India St. Blanchard’s friends said they did not know their attackers, and police said there is no evidence that the fight involved drugs or was racially motivated.

Neither group appeared to have been at any bars before the confrontation, Sauschuck said.

Police initially described the two men who ran from the scene as black, but witnesses described two men who were in the area right before the shooting as Asian.

“We have limited suspect information at this point,” said Sauschuck.

Police canvassed the area, looking for witnesses and seeking out businesses that might have security video that would show the area at the time of the shooting.

Although there are homes along India Street, much of it consists of businesses. The Milestone Shelter, for people with substance abuse problems, is at 65 India St. Sauschuck said there is no apparent connection between the shelter and the shooting.

Police fanned out into the apartment buildings on nearby Cumberland Avenue and the streets leading into the Kennedy Park public housing development.

“Kennedy Park was targeted to be the general location of where the individuals escaped,” Sauschuck said.

Blanchard was in the news last month in connection with the death of a friend. On June 22, he fell asleep at the wheel of a 2008 Chevrolet Cobalt and crashed on Gray Road in Falmouth, killing Casey Green, 22, of Cumberland.

There were no signs that he was drinking or speeding in the 50 mph zone. Blanchard initially told police that he was not driving, but later admitted to being behind the wheel, Falmouth police said.

Police charged Blanchard with causing an accident that led to the death of someone while driving with a suspended license. Police do not believe there is any connection between the crash and Wednesday’s shooting.

The homicide was the first of this year in Portland. Sauschuck said the city averages three a year. It had two in 2011. One of them, which occurred at the corner of outer Congress Street and Massachusetts Avenue, remains unsolved.

“When we’re talking about crimes in general, and certainly homicide, one is too many, period,” Sauschuck said.

Jim Ward, who lives on Hampshire Street, said he was watching television early Wednesday morning when he heard what he thought were fireworks going off nearby.

Ward, a deejay at WMPG, didn’t think much of it until he left for work a couple of hours later, around 3 a.m., and saw police cruisers and roads blocked.

He said he has lived in the neighborhood for more than a decade and hasn’t seen any violent crime. “I feel very safe,” he said.

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

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