Edward Hyman had been living on the street barely two days when he decided he wanted to die.

His life had unraveled with remarkable speed.

A month earlier, Hyman had driven to Portland with a culinary job and an apartment waiting for him, his latest step in a 10-year career spent in fine-dining kitchens from Orlando, Florida, to New York City.

But on Oct. 7, Hyman, 42, was newly homeless and scared. He was in a city he barely knew, depressed and addicted to heroin. His entire life was packed into five duffel bags on a sidewalk – and soon, he would lose those, too.

Over the next 72 hours, Hyman’s crisis spiraled, until he was lying bleeding on Oxford Street in front the Preble Street Resource Center soup kitchen, the first person to be shot by a Portland police officer since 2017.

On Tuesday in his first public interview since he was wounded by Officer Nevin Rand early on Oct. 9, Hyman discussed what brought him to Portland and how, after all his plans fell through, he decided to provoke a police officer into killing him.

“It took me doing what I did to get help,” he said, adding that he intends to stay in the Portland area. He is now free on personal recognizance and living in a sober house in Biddeford. “Had this not happened, I’d still be right there on Oxford Street getting high. … No one would have cared. I’m just another face. A homeless bum.”

Embarrassed about his addiction and at first reluctant to speak, Hyman agreed to go on the record to highlight what led to the shooting: his long, steady struggle with trauma, mental health problems and drug addiction. He said that he was taken aback by the open drug use and dire circumstances of the people living on the street where he found himself in the Bayside neighborhood, and that there should be more resources for unhoused people and those addicted to drugs.

“There’s a street like that in every city across America, and people just avoid it and drive past them and look at you like you’re a homeless bum,” he said. “Something has to be done. We’re the richest country in the world. Why are there so many people caught in these situations?”

For Hyman, surviving the shooting means he’s been given a chance to reset, he said.

A CHANCE TO RESET

When he was hospitalized at Maine Medical Center, he said, he spoke for the first time in his life with a social worker. Under medical supervision, he tapered off opiates with methadone. He has the sober living support system, at least for now, and wants to get back into talk therapy and drug counseling. He says he is totally focused on healing his wounds and getting back to work.

His story mirrors those of countless Americans, including thousands in Maine, whose lives and livelihoods have been upended by the torrent of heroin that has flooded the United States, and treatment is often in short supply, especially for people without cash or insurance.

Maine is on pace to eclipse the record number of fatal overdoses that occurred in 2020. Through April, the state reported 199 confirmed or suspected overdose deaths, a monthly average of roughly 50 deaths. That’s more than the 163 fatal overdoses during the same period last year, when the monthly average was nearly 41. Overall, a record 504 people died of a drug overdose in 2020, a 33 percent increase over the 380 people who died of a drug overdose in 2019.

Hyman’s history with drug use goes back 23 years, he said, to when he was 19 years old and got addicted to crack cocaine.

He was born and raised in New Jersey by a single dad who worked hard to provide for his kids but struggled with alcoholism.

As a teenager, Hyman said, he was charged with armed robbery in New Jersey – and at 19 was sentenced to 14 years in prison. He served five, and when he got out at 24, he was determined to never go back to jail.

Hyman said he found work doing manual labor and started a family, trying to settle down. He found a passion for cooking by age 30, he said, and graduated two years later from the Culinary Institute of New York.

Cooking professionally has been the most satisfying work of his life, he said: “There’s nothing like the joy of presenting something, watching people’s eyes light up. It’s my art form.”

A PASSION FOR COOKING

His first internship out of school turned into a full-time job with a name-brand chef, and soon he was making good money, he said. He moved up from line cook to sous chef and soon joined management, learning how to manage costs, order food from vendors and delegate tasks.

He had no problem holding down a job, he said, and flourished, with multiple-year stints at increasingly upscale restaurants.

All the while, cocaine was still a draw.

Each week after he paid his bills and rent and sent money to the mother of his children, he said, he would blow through what was left on drugs.

Crack was a fast high but it didn’t leave him hungover or unable to work.

“That was crack,” Hyman said. “You don’t get sick. I could (expletive) off all night and still go to work the next day. It wasn’t really until the dope, the heroin, that I started (expletive) up jobs because of my substance abuse.”

Hyman said he knew he needed help, and checked himself into a Salvation Army rehabilitation program. He had to quit his job to attend and had no insurance, so he chose the only program that was free.

When he got out, he stayed clean for about three months before he tried heroin for the first time. That was about 18 months ago, he said, when a woman he was dating asked him if he wanted to snort some.

“It started off fun on weekends and it just progressed,” he said.

Soon he needed to keep using to stop from getting dope sick, the painful process of withdrawal that can happen within hours for regular heroin users who go without a dose. About six months ago, in April, he began shooting heroin intravenously.

A NEW START IN PORTLAND

By August, he started having problems at his New York job, Hyman said. He called out of work twice in a week, each time because he was too sick to function, and was quickly fired. He spent a month living with his mother in Manhattan before she saw an ad for a Portland chef position in a Korean-language newspaper.

The salary was good at N to Tail, a Korean fusion restaurant on Exchange street, and the job came with an apartment, he said.

Hyman moved to Maine in early September, right around his 42nd birthday. He brought some heroin with him, but after a few weeks his supply ran out.

He called out of work, just as he had done in New York. Then he did it again, and just as before, he was swiftly fired – only this time he lost his apartment along with his job.

For a week he lived out of his red, 2017 Mitsubishi sedan, parking at Top of the Old Port at night to sleep. On Oct. 7, as he tried to drive back from a friend’s house in Falmouth early one morning, he got turned around and then fell asleep at the wheel, totaling his car in Auburn.

Police charged him with operating under the influence and possession of heroin.

He collected his belongings from the vehicle and booked an Uber to Portland, about to experience his first time being homeless.

On his first night sleeping out, he said, someone stole his backpack and clothes.

He stayed close to the Preble Street Resource Center and ate meals from the soup kitchen there. He spent his last full day on the street getting high and trying to think about how he could get out of his situation.

Hopelessness crept in. He had a piece of cardboard for a bed.

“It was cold. I was hungry. I was running out of money,” Hyman said. ” I probably had maybe $100 left to my name. I was going to to be completely broke soon. I tried to lay down and sleep, I remember. And at one point I just got up and was like, ‘This is it.'”

‘THIS IS IT’

He had heard about “suicide by cop” before, he said. So before dawn on Oct. 9, his third day living on the streets, Hyman did something to draw a police response. He declined to discuss what he did, fearing further charges, he said. Police have already charged him with resisting arrest and criminal threatening.

Portland police declined on Tuesday to release any further information about the shooting or discuss Hyman’s version of events.

But they said previously they were called that morning to a reported burglary, and that witnesses identified Hyman as the suspect.

Hyman said he had returned to his sleeping spot and covered his face with a blanket as he waited for officers to arrive.

When he heard them approach, he stood up, one hand buried in his jacket pocket.

As Officer Rand attempted to start an interview, Hyman walked toward him, eyes fixed on the 26-year-old in uniform. He drew his wallet from his pocket and pointed it at the officer.

“I literally pointed my wallet at him,” he said. “I wanted to die.”

Rand shot Hyman in the right knee and left forearm, Hyman said. It felt like getting hit with two sledgehammers. He surrendered to the officers and was whisked to Maine Medical Center.

Hyman, who now hopes to heal and get help with his addiction in Portland, said he caused the officer to shoot him and doesn’t blame Rand for doing what he did. He dismissed any notion that the shooting was racially motivated or that he might pursue a lawsuit.

He said Rand’s decision to shoot him was justified.

“I feel a lot of remorse. I’m sorry I put the officers through that,” he said. “I take responsibility.”

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