February 19, 2013

Search for answers in a senseless killing

Family and friends want justice for a young man who struggled with his own role in a separate tragedy.

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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Portland police collect and photograph evidence at 105-107 India St. following the still-unsolved shooting death of 24-year-old Matt Blanchard during the early-morning hours of July 11, 2012.

Matt Blanchard

Additional Photos Below

Blanchard was just about to open his bag of potato chips when the world erupted.

The first shot hit Blanchard’s bicycle. Howard has a photo of the metal bar between the seat and handlebars, flattened by a bullet.

There were sparks and Hersom warned that someone was throwing fireworks.

“He hadn’t comprehended he got shot,” said Corey Blanchard.

Then Howard was hit by a bullet that shattered the bone of his upper arm.

“It was ‘bang, bang’ and then I got hit,” Howard said. “I felt it snap ... I looked down at my left arm and screamed ... It was pouring blood. It was like a faucet in my arm.”

Howard said he looked up to see a large man pointing a gun at them and then took off running.

“As I’m running, I hear ‘bang, bang, bang, bang.’” He sprinted down a driveway and ducked into a corner of the parking lot, where he hid.

Corey Blanchard stood, stunned, staring at the man about 75 feet away on Congress Street who was pointing a gun at them with two hands.

He remembers the shooter as a large black man, 6 feet tall maybe, wearing a white shirt and a light-colored, flat-brim baseball cap.

“Josh was holding his arm. Johnny just kind of dropped. I heard the first two shots and then four more,” Corey Blanchard said. “I see a guy like this walking toward us in the middle of Congress,” he said, clasping his hands extended ahead of him, imitating a shooter holding a handgun.

Matt fell backward and Corey could see his shirt darkening over his chest.

The sharp sound of metal hitting the Metro sign next to his head shocked Corey into ducking.

Then the gunman was gone, headed down Congress Street in the same direction as a group of youths whom Blanchard and Howard said called them names moments after shooting.

A taxi drove by, and they remember yelling to the driver to call police, that they had just been shot. The driver kept going.

Corey looked down at his brother lying on the stoop. He saw Matt staring back at him, blood pouring from the bullet hole in his chest. He reached up toward Corey and gasped, but was unable to speak.

Corey held his brother until seconds later when police arrived.

As police swarmed the area, an officer ordered Corey Blanchard to the ground at gunpoint, unsure of his role in the shooting.

Then rescue workers quickly put his brother on a stretcher and loaded him into an ambulance. Corey Blanchard went to the police station to be interviewed. After 45 minutes, one of the detectives took him aside.

“He said, ‘I have some bad news, your brother didn’t make it,’” Corey recalled. “I just started bawling.”

To this day, the friends still wonder why Matt was killed.

“We didn’t have a beef with anyone. We didn’t talk to anyone except those two kids,” said Corey Blanchard.

Police have struggled to identify any suspects who might have been in the area at the time. Reports that night say the gunman headed west on Congress Street.

Detectives examined security video from a number of area businesses taken that night. They released a description of someone they were seeking: an Asian man with tattoos on his neck.

They did not say whether they thought that person was the gunman or someone who might be able to identify a suspect. Police would say only that he was a person of interest whom they wanted to interview. Blanchard and Howard are adamant that the man they saw was black, though the lighting was poor.

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Additional Photos

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Ron Blanchard, left, father of murder victim Matt Blanchard, talks about his son along with Logan Howard, Matt’s uncle, and John Howard, Matt’s brother. They insist the killing was a random act of violence.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer


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