Thursday, December 12, 2013
PORTLAND – A Scarborough man who is accused of beating a woman unconscious last month in Portland faces a new charge of elevated aggravated assault.
The additional felony charge against Eric Gwaro, 28, was lodged based on information that wasn't available at the time of the attack, said Deputy District Attorney Meg Elam.
Gwaro, a Scarborough call firefighter who is now on unpaid leave, was arrested and charged with aggravated assault against a 25-year-old woman near Montgomery Street in the early morning of Aug. 30.
The woman remains unresponsive at Maine Medical Center, Elam said during a hearing Thursday in Cumberland County Unified Criminal Court. She is identified in court papers as Sherri York and is described as a prostitute and drug user.
The prosecutor said the attack was captured on video and seen by witnesses. Gwaro was seen on surveillance footage dragging the woman by the hair in a parking lot, Elam said, and witnesses saw him punching her and repeatedly stomping on her head.
Gwaro was wearing two T-shirts and switched them around to hide his identity, Elam said.
Peter Richard Jr., Gwaro's lawyer, said his client disputes the allegations.
Gwaro did not speak during the hearing, his first court appearance in the case. Because he is charged with felonies, he did not enter any pleas.
Court documents submitted in support of the new charge provide glimpses of the time surrounding the early morning assault.
Video surveillance at the Big Apple store on Washington Avenue captured York approaching the driver's window of a maroon Ford that had pulled into the lot shortly after 2 a.m., the documents say. York got into the car, the vehicle left and York returned to the store 23 minutes later. She paced around the store, her face was swollen and she appeared to be crying.
Shortly before 3 a.m., a man with a red baseball cap approached York in the store's parking lot, the documents say. He hugged and kissed York, who appeared to be trying to pull away from him, before leaving.
A couple of minutes later, York was seen running from a man in a different shirt. He pulled her to the ground and dragged her across the lot and across the street to the Cumberland Avenue Garage.
A woman whose bedroom window looks onto the garage told police that it was between 3 and 3:30 a.m. when she saw a man kick the head of a woman on the ground five or six times. The man then grabbed the woman by one arm, hoisted her over his shoulder and walked away.
Police who responded to a report of an assault found York unconscious in an alley off Cumberland Avenue. She was not wearing shoes or socks, her pants had blood on them and her sweatshirt and bra were half torn off, according to a police report. Her face was swollen, blood was smeared across it and she had a large cut over her right eye.
In an interview with a detective, Gwaro said he went to a couple of bars that night after leaving his bartending job at the Inn by the Sea in Cape Elizabeth.
On his way home, Gwaro said, he thought he heard screaming from a car. He said he followed the car until it stopped in the middle of the street, then followed someone who either came out of the car or from in front of it.
Gwaro said he didn't call police because he thought that if he was portrayed as a "hero" in the media he would have a better chance of getting a full-time firefighting job, according to a police affidavit.
The hearing Thursday also addressed Gwaro's bail. He has been free on $10,000 cash bail.
Elam asked that it be increased to $250,000 property or $150,000 cash. She argued that, given the new charge and evidence against him, Gwaro has every reason to flee.
Richard argued that Gwaro is not a flight risk. The lawyer noted that Gwaro is married and has two children he cares for during the day while his wife is at work. He said Gwaro is well-regarded in his workplace and the inn's guests ask for him.
Superior Court Justice William Brodrick set Gwaro's bail at $50,000 cash. The conditions include a curfew that includes an exception for his job and the time it takes him to return home from work.
Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at: