Darcie N. McElwee, the U.S. Attorney for Maine, announces the arrest of three New Bedford, Massachusetts, men who have been indicted following a Feb. 9 drive-by shooting in Saco. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Police have arrested three men and charged them in connection with a drive-by shooting in downtown Saco in February that federal officials say was prompted by a “serious drug dispute” with a rival gang.

The shooting brought police from all over southern Maine to Saco. They blocked off roads, locked down schools and called for all residents to shelter in place. They used K-9 units and a drone to search the area, including a house where blood had been found on a porch and shed.

After more than three months of investigating and releasing little information to the public, Saco police and investigators from the FBI’s Southern Maine Gang Task Force said they believe the shooting was between two gangs over a drug territory dispute. They suspect even more individuals are involved, but declined to elaborate on those suspicions in a news conference on the front steps of the U.S. District Court in Portland Thursday afternoon.

“Violent drug traffickers have a corrosive effect on our community,” said FBI Agent Christopher Peavey. “Rest assured, we will not rest until we identify all the individuals involved in this case.”

One of the three suspects, 19-year-old Joshua Estrada of New Bedford, Massachusetts, was arraigned Thursday. He pleaded not guilty and is scheduled for a detention hearing on Tuesday, said Michael Whipple, Estrada’s court-appointed attorney. Estrada was being held in the Strafford County Jail in Dover, New Hampshire, Whipple said in an email.

A federal grand jury also has indicted 20-year-old Yancarlos Abrante and 18-year-old Jason Johnson-Rivera. All three face charges of perpetrating a drive-by shooting and conspiracy to distribute cocaine. They face up to 45 years in prison if convicted.


Abrante and Rivera are in custody in Massachusetts, and will be arraigned in Maine once they are transferred. It’s unclear from court records who their attorneys are.

Saco Police Chief Jack Clements speaks during a news conference outside the U.S. Courthouse in Portland, where authorities announced that three men from New Bedford, Massachusetts, were indicted in the drive-by shooting in Saco last February. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

The shooting on Elm Street (Route 1) began around noon on Feb. 9, when police say three men in a Honda HR-V fired shots at a Dodge Charger while both vehicles were traveling north.

Police said at the time that the Honda sped through a red light and crashed into another car, causing both vehicles to hit a stopped Old Orchard Beach school bus. No one on the bus was injured, but some of the students got videos and pictures of the men who fled the Honda, which police say they used to identify the three defendants.

In a warrant for the men’s arrest, Saco Detective Ryan Hatch said he met with an informant who bought drugs about 10-15 times earlier this year using a Facebook page. The person didn’t know the drug dealers who ran the Facebook page, but had met with them before and recognized them from police photographs of Abrante and Estrada.

Hatch said it was clear from numerous texts, videos, pictures and Snapchat messages that the three young men were drug dealers who were in a serious dispute with “rival drug dealers” regarding territory and customers in Saco and Biddeford, Hatch said.

There were people asking them if they could buy cocaine, and pictures of the young men showing them posing with bags of what appeared to be cocaine and guns. In some pictures included in the affidavit, they were fanning themselves with money.

Hatch said he was able to obtain all this media because Johnson-Rivera and Abrante left their phones in the back of the Honda, which police had recovered.

They also found the gun they believe was used in the shooting – a 9 mm Smith & Wesson – and a scale coated in white powder that later tested positive for cocaine, according to court documents.

Police found the Dodge Charger later that night at a home off of Route 25 in Standish. Hatch said the car was a rental and he believed members of a rival drug gang had been inside. He doesn’t name any of them or include any of their pictures in Estrada’s arrest affidavit.

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