January 31

Local and State Dispatches

Damage prevents determination of Portland fire’s cause / Portland man charged over counterfeit $20 bills / Lewiston police looking for suspect in credit union robbery ... and more


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Workers cling to the side of a cellphone tower as they perform maintenance and upgrade work using a crane and cherry picker Wednesday off the Maine Turnpike in Saco.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

Extensive damage impedes determination of fire’s cause

Investigators say the fire that ripped through a 130-year-old house on Irving Street on Jan. 19 did too much damage for them to determine the cause.

Fire Chief Jerome LaMoria said in a statement that the three-alarm fire that destroyed 84 Irving St. left the building structurally unsafe for investigators or anyone else to enter.

Residents said the wiring in the building was old and that the fire started in a section of the house that had no electricity but was served by numerous extension cords.

There were no injuries and LaMoria said it was the presence of working smoke detectors that prevented a tragedy. Now, the city is working with the owner to make sure the property meets minimum safety requirements, he said.

Member of School Board resigning to go back to U.K.

Portland School Board member Elizabeth Brooks is resigning her seat to return to her native England, she said Thursday.

“It is with great sadness that I have to resign my position, but I must return to live in the U.K. and must move this summer,” said Brooks, who was elected in 2008 and has lived in Portland 18 years.

Brooks will serve through June 30, and her current term was set to expire at the end of the year. The board’s chairwoman said there would not be a special election since the vacancy will be only for six months.

“There is no reason to ask the taxpayers to spend $18,000 to $20,000 on a special election to fill a vacancy of just a few months,” Chairwoman Sarah Thompson said. “I believe that this board can function fine with eight members over the summer and fall.”

Brooks recently chaired the board’s Operations Committee and previously served as president of the Presumpscot School PTO.

No new details released about shooting at tavern

Portland police have released no new details about the circumstances surrounding a shooting early Tuesday morning on Hampshire Street, in part to avoid creating obstacles to the investigation.

Police say they must still conduct a time-consuming forensic analysis, numerous interviews and review of security tapes from the area that night. They also want to interview the 24-year-old Portland resident who was shot and remains in serious condition at Maine Medical Center.

As with many investigations, police are withholding certain details of the crime known only to a small group of people. Releasing that information prematurely could influence witness statements, police said.

The man was shot at 1:20 a.m. on the street in front of Sangillo’s Tavern at 18 Hampshire St.

Police did not identify the victim, or say whether he was able to provide an account of what happened or identify his attacker.

Officials have said they do not believe the shooting was a random act and the public is not in danger, but have not said whether they have identified a suspect. They questioned several people at the scene immediately after the shooting and took some people into custody, although they did not say whether those were related to the shooting.


Man charged with forgery over counterfeit $20 bills

Falmouth police have charged a 27-year-old Portland man with aggravated forgery for allegedly passing counterfeit $20 bills.

Police charged Jonathan McDonald with felony forgery on Tuesday.

Police say local businesses had been reporting counterfeit bills over the past two weeks.

After McDonald was identified as the suspect, Falmouth and Portland police and agents with the Secret Service searched his house on Rustic Lane in Portland on Wednesday and uncovered what police called a “counterfeit plant” in the basement.

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