November 20, 2013

911 transcript: Caller reported ‘death threats’ before Biddeford killings

Despite that call, a police official says the man told responding officers he didn’t feel at risk, so they left. Minutes later, two people were dead.

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Forty minutes before he and his girlfriend were shot to death last year, Derrick Thompson called 911 to report his landlord was making “death threats,” according to a transcript of the call released Tuesday by the state Attorney General’s Office.

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The 911 call transcript shows landlord James Pak, left, had made death threats before Thompson and Alivia Welch were killed.

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James Pak

Related headlines

TO READ Derrick Thompson's 911 call to the Regional Communication Center in Gray, click here.

TO READ Derrick Thompson's 911 call routed to Biddeford Police Department, click here.

WARNING: These transcripts contain graphic language.

Two Biddeford police officers who responded to Thompson’s call determined that the dispute was a civil matter, said Deputy Police Chief JoAnne Fisk.

When he called 911 on Dec. 29, Thompson asked an emergency dispatcher to send a cruiser immediately because James Pak was threatening him.

Thompson said, “He’s giving me death threats, pointing his fingers like it’s a gun going bang,” according to the transcript, which the state released in response to a ruling by Maine’s highest court in a lawsuit filed by the Portland Press Herald.

Pak, 75, is charged with killing Thompson, 19, and his girlfriend, Alivia Welch, 18, and seriously wounding Thompson’s mother, Susan Johnson, 44, in the apartment that the mother and son rented from him.

Pak, who lived in the adjoining house, is being held in the York County Jail on two counts of murder and one count of attempted murder.

The release of the 911 transcripts makes public, for the first time, the fact that Thompson used the words “death threats.”

Fisk said Tuesday that she did not know whether a dispatcher told the responding officers that Pak had made death threats against Thompson. The transcripts do not include most of the radio traffic between the dispatchers and responding officers.

“I’m assuming the dispatcher made the officer aware,” Fisk said. “When the officer went there for the first call, he was there for a long time.”

It’s also not clear whether the officers who responded to the initial 911 call knew that Pak had a gun.

An officer who responded to Thompson’s call decided that Pak’s behavior did not constitute criminal threatening because Thompson said he did not feel threatened and did not believe that Pak would follow through on his threats, according to court records.

“You can’t coerce the witness,” Fisk said Tuesday when asked why Pak was not charged. “Somebody has to feel threatened.”

Fisk said the conversation between the officer and Thompson was recorded on a cruiser camera, and the recording is now part of the attorney general’s investigative file.

Three minutes after the officers left, dispatchers received another 911 call, from Johnson.

“We’ve all been shot, please hurry,” Johnson said as she hid, bleeding, behind a Christmas tree with a bullet wound in her back. Authorities say Pak had returned and killed Thompson and Welch, and thought he had killed Johnson.

DETAILS OF POLICE RESPONSE CALL

After the shootings, police and prosecutors denied the Press Herald’s Freedom of Access request for transcripts of the 911 calls. The newspaper’s appeal ultimately reached the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, which ruled Nov. 14 that the transcripts are public records. The Attorney General’s Office released the transcripts five days later.

The court’s unanimous decision rejected the state’s longstanding practice of withholding 911 transcripts in homicide cases and overturned a ruling by a Superior Court judge in March that releasing the transcripts of three 911 calls in the incident could interfere with the state’s case against Pak.

The Press Herald sued for the transcripts of the 911 calls to find out exactly what Thompson told the dispatcher, and why police considered the situation a “civil issue” and left just minutes before it turned deadly.

The transcripts show that Thompson told police and 911 dispatchers that Pak made “death threats” against him and that he felt threatened enough to ask for an immediate police response.

“I have my landlord out here freaking out at me, giving me death threats,” Thompson said at the beginning of his 911 call at 6:07 p.m. on Dec. 29.

(Continued on page 2)

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