November 21, 2013

Question in Biddeford killings: Did police detect landlord was threat?

The suspect was agitated in a 911 call after the shootings, but no one will discuss what officers observed before the attacks.

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Transcripts of 911 calls and a victim’s account of the shooting of three people last year in Biddeford raise questions about how much of a threat James Pak appeared to be when police responded to his tenant’s report that Pak had made death threats, and about officers’ decision to consider the confrontation a civil matter and leave just minutes before the shooting.

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James Pak

AP

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Derrick Thompson and Alivia Welch

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Police have not described Pak’s demeanor on the night of Dec. 29 or exactly what he said to officers who responded to Derrick Thompson’s 911 call.

About 40 minutes after Thompson called police – and three minutes after officers left his apartment – Pak allegedly shot and killed Thompson, 19, and his girlfriend, Alivia Welch, 18, and seriously wounded Thompson’s mother, Susan Johnson, 44.

On a 911 call right after the shooting, Pak apparently was agitated, telling an emergency dispatcher, “I told him that I gonna kill you. And the police say, no (inaudible) way,” according to a transcript released Tuesday by the Maine Attorney General’s Office.

Later, he said, “I say, when you come, it’s gonna be bloody mess.”

Pak, an immigrant from Korea, speaks broken English and it’s not clear who he was referring to.

On Wednesday, Biddeford Deputy Police Chief JoAnne Fisk would not discuss the officers’ interaction with Pak when they first went to his house and the adjoining apartment, what he said to them, whether the officers knew he had guns or if they asked him about his guns. She referred questions to the state Attorney General’s Office, which is in charge of the homicide investigation.

Thompson initially called police to say that Pak was making “death threats” and had pointed his fingers at Thompson in the shape of a gun.

Police have said they determined that the dispute between Pak and Thompson was a civil matter, not criminal. Thompson told officers that he did not feel threatened, meaning Pak could not be charged with criminal threatening, according to court records. And because no threat was made in an officer’s presence, they would not have been able to arrest him on the misdemeanor charge of criminal threatening.

Deputy Attorney General William Stokes would not comment Wednesday on the transcripts or evidence in the case. He said his office is focused on the homicide case and is not involved in other aspects of the police response.

In court documents associated with a lawsuit that Johnson filed against Pak and his wife, she recounted what police told her after they spoke with Pak before the shootings.

According to the lawsuit, the officers asked Thompson if he felt threatened by Pak, and Thompson said he did not. “Defendant Pak stands about five feet, four inches tall, and Derrick was approximately eight inches taller,” the lawsuit says.

Johnson then asked the officers how Pak acted when they spoke with him.

“ ‘Anything but normal,’ one of the officers responded,” according to the lawsuit.

Pak has pleaded not guilty to two charges of murder and one charge of attempted murder. He has been held in the York County Jail since the shootings. He is scheduled to have more psychological tests before his case proceeds.

Police went to the apartment about 6 p.m. on Dec. 29 after Thompson called 911 and told a dispatcher that Pak had made “death threats.”

Two officers responded and discussed the incident with Thompson and the other tenants. They then talked to Pak and concluded that it was a dispute over rent and parking after a snowstorm.

The transcripts of 911 calls made before and after the shootings were released in response to a ruling by Maine’s highest court in a lawsuit filed by the Portland Press Herald.

(Continued on page 2)

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