March 11, 2010

Man was holding gun when shot, police sayAs officials investigate, friends mourn Sudanese immigrant David Okot, 26

ANN S

— By . KIM and DENNIS HOEY

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Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer: Flowers rest in the center of a small memorial on Sunday, April 26, 2009 at the spot on a sidewalk along Weymouth Street in Portland where David Okot's body was dragged after being shot by Portland Police officers on Saturday evening.

Gregory Rec

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Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer: Flowers rest in the center of a small memorial on Sunday, April 26, 2009 at the spot on a sidewalk along Weymouth Street in Portland where David Okot's body was dragged after being shot by Portland Police officers on Saturday evening.

Gregory Rec

Additional Photos Below

Staff Writers

PORTLAND — The man killed by police over the weekend was brandishing a handgun on the porch of a Weymouth Street apartment building when officers fired on him, a police official said Sunday.

Interim Police Chief Joseph Loughlin refused to identify the man, but family members and several Weymouth Street residents said he was David Okot, 26, of Portland, a Sudanese immigrant.

Police and the state Attorney General's Office continued to investigate the shooting Sunday. ''This will be a methodical search for the truth, and we'll get all the answers,'' Loughlin said.

Sunday night, about 75 members of Portland's Sudanese community gathered to remember Okot on the sidewalk outside the La Bodega Latina market on Congress Street, where Okot's body was moved by police after the shooting.

Vincent Odong said a few words in Sudanese before leading the gathering in prayer. Most of the people held candles, which they later placed next to a circle of stones around the spot where Okot died.

''This was a time to remember David,'' said Odong, who identified himself as Okot's nephew.

Odong said Okot's immediate family was not ready to speak about what happened.

In a press release, police said the dead man had been ''tentatively identified as a 26-year-old Sudanese man who resides in Portland,'' but his name wouldn't be released until after he is positively identified in an autopsy today.

In its account of the shooting, Portland police said officers Benjamin Roper and Joshua Wiseman went to Weymouth Street around 7:35 p.m. Saturday in response to a report of a man with a handgun who appeared to be intoxicated. The man reportedly showed the gun to a passerby.

When the officers arrived, two men -- including one matching the suspect's description -- went onto the porch of a triple-decker apartment building at the corner of Weymouth and Grant streets, where a third man was standing.

Roper and Wiseman were forced to fire when the suspect reached into his waistband and pulled out the handgun, Loughlin said.

''The weapon was coming out and being displayed,'' he said.

Multiple shots were fired, although it was not clear how many. Loughlin would not say where the shots hit the suspect.

Okot was pronounced dead at the scene. Loughlin said rescue personnel got to him within minutes, once police had determined the area was safe for them to enter.

One of the men on the porch jumped off and ran away. He was later interviewed by detectives. The other man ran into the apartment building and was not located, despite a search of the building.

Police recovered a semi-automatic handgun and are reviewing video of the incident recorded by a camera in a police cruiser.

On Sunday, neighborhood residents remained shocked. Several residents said they watched as police opened fire on Okot. Most were unwilling to give their names, but some questioned why Okot's body was moved from the porch to the sidewalk, a distance of about 30 feet.

Brian MacMaster, Director of Investigations for the Attorney General's Office, said he could not speak for Portland police, but assumed the body was moved so that police could secure the apartment building.

''It was a hot scene at the time,'' he said.

The Attorney General's Office will take about 30 days to issue its findings on whether the use of deadly force was justified, MacMaster said.

The police department's internal affairs unit will also review police procedures and policies in such situations.

On Sunday, three bullet holes were visible in the apartment building walls and blood stained some of the siding. Sand had been thrown onto the porch and the steps to soak up blood.

Paul Okot told the Portland Press Herald that the man shot by police was his older brother, David Okot. Steven Abreu, a Weymouth Street resident, said the gunfire sounded like fireworks.

''It happened so fast,'' he said. ''It was like 'Aaargh! Boom, boom, boom, boom.' ''

Haben Taffere said he was a classmate and friend of David Okot's brother at Portland High School. He spent a lot of time at Okot's home. When he heard about the shooting, he went to Weymouth Street to find out more.

''I couldn't believe it,'' Taffere said. ''When these guys showed me this (the blood on the sidewalk) and the bullet holes, I was like, 'Oh my God.' This is what shocks me the most. It makes you think 'What the hell is going on?' ''

Loughlin said police were meeting with members of the Sudanese community Sunday.

''Like everyone, they want answers to the same questions the public has, that we have,'' he said.

The community's relations with police have been strained at times. Last summer, community leaders expressed frustration with what they saw as a lack of police progress in cases involving Sudanese victims.

They voiced their concerns after the death of James Angelo, a Mercy Hospital security guard who was shot during a break last year by suspects who are still at large.

Officers Roper, an eight-year veteran of the department, and Wiseman, who has been with the department for 2½ years, are on administrative leave, in accordance with department policy. Loughlin said the officers were shaken by the incident, and were interviewed by investigators.

Staff Writer Ann Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at:

akim@pressherald.com

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

dhoey@pressherald.com

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Additional Photos

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Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer: Haben Taffere, Steven Abreu and Hassan Salah, left to right, stand on the sidewalk along Weymouth Street in Portland on Sunday morning, April 26, 2009, where David Okot was dragged after being shot by police on Saturday evening. Salah said the dark spot on the ground was from beer he had poured on the spot to consecrate Okot's death. Taffere said he went to Portland High School with Okot. Abreu lives in an apartment upstairs from La Bodega Latina.

Gregory Rec

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Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer: Men stand on the landing of an apartment building on Weymouth Street in Portland on Sunday morning, April 26, 2009 where David Okot was shot and killed by Portland Police officers on Saturday evening.

Gregory Rec

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Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer: Paul Okot, right, stands on Weymouth Street in Portland on Saturday evening, April 26, 2009, near the scene where his brother David Okot was shot and killed by police on Saturday evening. Portland Police are not identifying the victim yet but Paul Okot confirmed that it was his older brother David Okot who was killed. At left is Thomas Oyet, a friend of the Okot family.

Gregory Rec

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Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer: Hassan Salah, a friend of David Okot, lights candles at a shrine Sunday night on Weymouth Street in Portland where Okot's body was dragged after being shot by two Portland Police officers on Saturday evening.

Gregory Rec

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Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer: Hassan Salah, a friend of David Okot, lights candles at a shrine Sunday night on Weymouth Street in Portland where Okot's body was dragged after being shot by two Portland Police officers on Saturday evening.

Gregory Rec

 


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