A Portland man who says he is an Iraq War veteran has accused Portland police of using excessive force when officers surrounded his vehicle in the Old Port on Sunday night and pointed weapons at him and another man.
Police drew their weapons when they surrounded a sport utility vehicle on Exchange Street after receiving a report that one of the men had flashed a gun at people in Tommy’s Park.
Police Chief Michael Sauschuck said the officers responded appropriately, taking steps to protect themselves and the public.
“I understand their job but that’s a little excessive,” said Colin Wescott, 24, in an interview Monday. “It was just like Iraq, man, I’ll tell you.”
According to the incident report, a man notified the police department at 9:35 p.m. that a man in a sport utility vehicle was flashing a gun at people in the area of Tommy’s Park, at Exchange and Middle streets. The weapon turned out to be a large Kabar military knife, which officers found in the SUV.
Several officers were sent to Exchange Street and found the vehicle – a white Ford Escape – with two men inside. One of the men was Wescott. The other was identified by police as Tasean Lewis, 21, of Portland, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, according to Wescott.
Both men were handcuffed and ordered to lie on the ground during the investigation, but neither one was charged.
Patrolman Dan Jose Aguilera, who filed the incident report, said that when he arrived he saw Lewis holding a shiny object in his right hand and pointing it like a handgun at passers-by.
Aguilera said he could not see whether the man really had a weapon. At that point, Aguilera pointed his rifle at the men and ordered them to get on the ground.
Moments later, a woman approached the vehicle and was ordered to leave. She became uncooperative and got between the officers and the man, according to Aguilera’s report.
The woman, identified by police as Alicia Kane, 25, was eventually arrested and charged with obstructing government administration. Wescott said Kane is his girlfriend. She was taken to the Cumberland County Jail and released.
Wescott said he served a tour of duty in Kirkuk, Iraq, in 2009 with the Army’s Alpha Company, 1-8 Cav, 1st Cavalry Division. Wescott said Lewis served a tour of duty in Afghanistan.
Sauschuck said police dispatchers who took the initial phone call were told that one of the men had a weapon. When officers respond to such situations, Sauschuck said, they must take steps to ensure their own safety and that of the public.
“The caller said one of the men had a gun and when the officers arrived they found (Lewis) holding a shiny object, which confirmed what the caller had told us,” the chief said.
Wescott said he and Lewis were driving through the Old Port, doing nothing wrong, when they stopped to listen to music and suddenly found themselves surrounded by heavily armed police officers.
“We got out of the vehicle and all of a sudden, there were police everywhere,” Wescott said. “I was like, ‘OK, I don’t know what is going on.’ ”
Wescott said that neither he nor Lewis was armed, and that they were removing baby seats from the back seat of the SUV to put in a rear compartment when they were surrounded.
Wescott said he questions what kind of report prompted police to respond with such force.