Portland interim Assistant Police Chief Robert Martin speaks during a news conference Tuesday about arrests made in connection with an exchange of gunfire near Pleasant and Forest avenues on Feb. 26. Martin was joined by Chief Mark Dubois, left, and Maj. Jason King, right. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Three Maine teenagers have been arrested after several law enforcement agencies uncovered evidence of a “sophisticated” drug trafficking network that stretches from Portland to Gray and New Gloucester – an operation that police say has brought gun violence and other criminal activity to the state.

“They’re playing ‘Grand Theft Auto,’ but real,” Portland interim Assistant Police Chief Robert Martin said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon. “It’s just really, really dangerous.”

None of the teens’ names were released. All of them are 17 years old. Most juvenile records are sealed in Maine except for the most serious crimes.

Martin, reading from a prepared statement, described how law enforcement’s initial investigation into a shooting near Woodfords Corner last month led to the discovery of the “baby-faced” drug ring, as well as the seizure of more than 400 grams of cocaine, $44,000 and seven guns.

On Feb. 26, police investigated reports that occupants of a Dodge Dart and a Ford Explorer had exchanged gunfire as they drove through several residential streets near Forest and Stevens avenues. Two days later, a patrol officer found a Dodge Dart with multiple bullet holes near 77 Grant St.

After executing search warrants on the car and the home of the vehicle’s owner, police learned that a 17-year-old had the car at the time of the shooting, according to Martin. Police arrested the teen, charged him with reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon and brought him to the Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland.


Martin said detectives eventually identified the owner of the Ford Explorer, which led investigators to a “significant drug trafficking network” connected to houses in Portland, Gray and New Gloucester.

It’s not clear exactly how the vehicle led police to the drug ring. Martin said the department could offer only limited information about the ongoing investigation. He also did not say what police believe led to the shootout in February, except that it appeared to be drug-related.

One search at 1445 Forest Ave. on March 15 turned up a handgun, cocaine and evidence of drug trafficking, according to Martin. A week later, members of the Maine State Police tactical team and the FBI’s Southern Maine Gang Task Force helped Portland officers execute three more search warrants simultaneously at 88 Skips Way and 84 Highview Drive in New Gloucester, and 38 Blackthorne Lane in Gray.

Interim Assistant Chief Robert Martin speaks to reporters Tuesday about arrests in connection with gunfire exchanged near Pleasant and Forest avenues on Feb. 26. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

As police searched the Skips Way home, they saw a car “fleeing the area at a high rate of speed.” When police stopped that car in Portland later that day, they found two 17-year-old boys, along with three handguns, $2,200 in cash and almost a pound of cocaine, Martin said. Police arrested the teens and brought them to Long Creek, where they will likely face drug and weapons charges, he said.

Minors in Maine cannot legally possess handguns. Martin said police have determined that at least one seized gun was stolen and will work with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to trace the other weapons.

Martin said the case fits into a troubling trend of drug networks bringing violent behavior to southern Maine. He said Portland has seen a rise in shootings in recent years and cited multiple shootings near Kennedy Park that were likely related to the drug trade.

Though he said he could not answer specific questions about how the teenagers’ operation worked, he said police are aware that Maine traffickers often travel to Boston and Connecticut to buy the drugs they then bring back to the state.

But while police say trafficking in general is on the rise, Martin said it is unusual – and “incredibly troubling” – for the suspects to be so young. Police believe that everyone involved in the drug ring is between 16 and 19 years old. Martin said more charges could be coming as the investigation continues.

“Their business has been extremely lucrative, and they’re funding quite an operation,” said Martin, who said at least two of the teenagers have recently purchased expensive SUVs. “We’ve taken forty-plus thousand dollars out of their bank. … But I don’t think we’ve made a dent.”

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