March 10, 2010

Police link pipe bombs, shooting


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Photo by John Ewing/Staff Photographer...... Monday, August 17, 2009...Portland Police Department bomb squad members detonated several pipe bombs found in a home on Park Avenue in Portland during an early morning drug raid. Officer Henry Small, wearing an armored bomb suit, returns from the bomb site inspection.

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Photo by John Ewing/Staff Photographer...... Monday, August 17, 2009...Portland Police Department bomb squad members detonated several pipe bombs found in a home on Park Avenue in Portland during an early morning drug raid. Officer Frank Gorham helps fellow bomb squad member Officer Henry Small don his protective armor before he inspected the detonation site next to the Portland Expo.

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Staff Writer

PORTLAND — The discovery of almost two dozen pipe bombs during a pre-dawn drug raid in Portland on Monday is connected to a drive-by shooting between rival drug dealers in the Old Port earlier this summer, police say.

Investigators cannot say why someone was manufacturing pipe bombs in a second-floor apartment at 240 Park Ave., but they say the shooting was probably related to competition over drug territory.

Police Chief James Craig said the discovery of a large amount of explosive devices in the city is disturbing.

''Certainly a pipe bomb can do a lot of damage. It can take out a motor vehicle or a small building,'' Craig said at a news conference Monday afternoon. ''Twenty pipe bombs would probably take a block out.''

The June 7 shooting victim, who was treated for a gunshot wound to the stomach, is wanted in another state and was seeking to start selling drugs in Portland, according to police.

''The individuals involved in the shooting did not take kindly to an outsider coming to set up shop,'' Craig said. However, no one has been charged in the shooting, he said.

Police arrested four people on drug trafficking charges Monday after a three-month investigation by the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency. Members of Portland's Special Reaction Team assisted in the execution of search warrants at 236 Park Ave., 240 Park Ave. and 115 Sherwood St.

Police arrested Michael Pressey, 29, of 240 Park Ave., and William E. Hopkins, 38, of 246 Park Ave., at Pressey's apartment. William Holmes III, 33, of 115 Sherwood St., and Melissa Stairs, 29, of 236 Park Ave., were arrested at the Sherwood Street apartment.

Police seized about an ounce of crack cocaine, worth about $2,000, as well as three handguns, a rifle and a shotgun, Craig said.

Police first discovered five pipe bombs at 240 Park Ave., and Portland's bomb squad detonated them in the parking lot between the Portland Exposition building and the Portland Ice Arena about 8:30 a.m., just as parents were trying to drop off children for a weeklong Maine Red Claws basketball camp.

Monday's camp was canceled, and the camp will run 90 minutes longer each day for the remainder of the week.

Police evacuated the city facilities, stopped a football practice being run on a nearby field and blocked Park Avenue just before the bombs were detonated.

Police searching the upstairs apartment at 240 Park Ave. later found another 15 improvised bombs, some containing what appeared to be shrapnel, Craig said. The explosives were turned over to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Dale Armstrong, resident agent in charge of the Portland office of the ATF, said a decision has not been made whether to charge the men federally.

So far, no charges have been brought in connection with the pipe bombs.

''It's a case-by-case basis,'' he said. ''It really depends on the facts of the investigation.''

Commanders with the MDEA said the violence accompanying drug trafficking is worrisome.

''I think we've got a lot of people coming in from out of state, coming and setting up shop and dealing, and some of those people are a little more violent than we're used to,'' said Commander Ken Pike, head of the MDEA's southern division.

Even if drug dealers are targeting each other, it can be dangerous for the public, he said.

''I'd hate to see anybody get caught in any crossfire,'' Pike said. ''I don't want to see drive-by shootings become an everyday happening here.''

Commander Darrell Crandell, MDEA chief for the northern and western sections of the state, said police are not seeing widespread violence among drug traffickers, but are seeing an abundance of guns.

The June 7 shooting occurred at the corner of Pleasant and Center streets just after midnight. After an argument, a 23-year-old Philadelphia man was shot in the stomach by a man he described as black with short hair, about 20 years old.

The pipe bombs discovered Monday were in an apartment that Pressey rents from his 92-year-old grandmother. A woman outside the building who was identified as Pressey's mother said only, ''Be careful the company you keep,'' before driving off Monday.

One of the men arrested Monday has had a number of run-ins with police and has been tied to gangs. In 2004, Holmes was arrested for disorderly conduct in the Old Port and was wearing a vest that showed he was a probationary member of the Outlaws Motorcycle Club. The arrest was during a period of competition between rival motorcycle gangs.

Police said that at one time, Holmes was a member of a group that called itself the FSU Posse.

Police also said that none of the four arrested Monday has any known gang affiliation.

The four are being held in the Cumberland County Jail on $100,000 cash bail each pending an initial court appearance.

Despite the troubling discovery, Craig said serious crime is down 13 percent so far this year.

''It's even better news we disrupted some kind of crime of violence,'' he said.

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

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Additional Photos

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John Patriquin/Staff Photographer; Monday, August 17, 2009. Apartment house at 240 Park Ave. in Portland where police found several pipe bombs during a drug raid this morning.

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