Miranda and David Poto were operating their food truck in Sanford on Friday when a man, who they say appeared to be having some sort of mental episode, charged them with a knife. David shot the man, who was then taken to Maine Medical Center in Portland. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

David Poto’s gun was at his hip when he left his food truck to check out the screaming he heard on the street. He saw a man, disheveled and strangely dressed, waving a knife at cars and pedestrians, and he thought he might be able to defuse the situation long enough for police to arrive.

The man turned his attention toward Poto and walked forward with the knife.

Poto said he could hear the man shouting incoherently; it sounded like he said, “I’m going to kill you. I’m going to kill myself. Kill me.”

As the man moved, so did Poto, slipping his gun from his hip, to his side, to a shooting position. The two men were about 5 feet apart, Poto said, when he pulled the trigger.

Sanford police are still investigating the non-fatal shooting at the intersection of Main and Lebanon streets on Friday evening. Police have not yet identified the victim, who remains hospitalized in stable condition. And prosecutors have not determined whether they will file charges against either Poto or the victim, Maj. Matthew Gagne said.

On Tuesday, Poto and his wife, Miranda, described the shooting as an act of self-defense – one they believe may have stopped the man from harming others.


“I can tell you 100% this person was not interested in de-escalation or going about his day,” Poto said. “He was looking for somebody to target and hurt.”


When the Potos opened their food truck in April, it was the culmination of one daughter’s dream. Ever since she was a little kid, Addison, 13, talked about opening a restaurant with her dad, Miranda Poto said. Every cooking show she watched, every trip out to eat was an opportunity to scout dishes for their future joint. The idea sounded good to David Poto, who had always had a special place in his heart for food.

“I’m Italian,” he said simply.

David Poto and his daughter Lily, 17, work in Addy’s food truck on Tuesday night at Number One Pond. The event was organized to support the Poto family after David Poto shot a man that he said was wielding a knife in Sanford on Friday. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

They named their truck Addy’s in her honor, but running it is a family affair. All four of the couple’s daughters regularly spend time at the truck, which was parked mostly at Number One Pond through the summer. Each day between the lunch and dinner rushes, the family would have a picnic and enjoy each other’s company in the sunshine.

“They all want to be involved,” David Poto said. “It’s a family event.”


On Friday evening, Addy’s was parked outside T-Mobile, where the truck has been setting up in the colder months. It was an important night for the business – potential customers tend to have full pockets on Fridays, and Sanford’s Holly Daze parade promised to draw hundreds of people to the area.

The commotion started a little before 5 p.m., about 40 minutes before the parade was scheduled to start. Miranda Poto was outside setting up a new sign for the business while their four girls watched Christmas movies. The couple heard shouting from the nearby intersection, followed by tires squealing as a truck raced away from a man in the intersection holding a knife.

They say the scene was almost theatrical; the man, scrawny and dirty, looked like he was wearing spandex, a long, baggy sweatshirt, and a dress that may have been made from a white sheet – “like a Jesus outfit,” David Poto said. He spun in the street, arms outstretched, threatening cars and pedestrians.

He tried to break into one stopped car, said Miranda Poto, who remembers the man jerking at the door handle, one foot on the side of the car for leverage.

“He was pretty adamant about getting into that vehicle,” she said. “I’ve never seen anybody unflinchingly try to smash a window that way.”

That’s when her husband called out to the man. As soon as he heard the conflict outside, he had grabbed the gun the family keeps in their food truck and ran outside to see what was happening. He says he did not want to shoot the man – he only wanted to keep him from hurting others until the police officers working the parade could arrive. He was sure it would only take moments.


Miranda Poto said she was “baffled” by how poised her husband remained as he tried to get the man to calm down. But the man only became more agitated, and his threats and warnings grew more urgent.

“Just pure insanity,” David Poto said. “He was begging me to kill him.”

When the man got within lunging distance, David Poto decided to act. He aimed the gun toward the man’s legs, hoping, he says, to stop him but not to kill him. He fired once and the man fell. Police wouldn’t say where the man was wounded.

Martha Lachance of Sanford orders from Addy’s food truck on Tuesday night at Number One Pond. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer


The family members have handled the shooting differently. Some of the girls, who didn’t really know what was happening until after it was over, have struggled with anxiety since Friday and are clinging tighter to their parents as if they might lose them at any moment. But the couple says they’re proud of how they handled a bad situation.

“You think of all those people that were at the parade,” Miranda Poto said. “He was going to harm someone.”

She and her husband both called for more resources to address mental health needs.

On Tuesday evening, after a few days off, Addy’s returned to Number One Pond to sell its subs and pizza rolls to customers hoping to support the business after it closed over the weekend. The event was organized by other local businesses and food trucks which, like the Potos, say they see themselves as one big family.

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