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Report Claims ‘Utter Chaos’ Including Drunk Deputies During Search for Maine Gunman



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The search for the gunman behind last October’s mass shooting in Maine was marked by “utter chaos,” including one group of deputies who had been drinking nearly crashing their armored vehicle and others showing up in civilian clothes who could have been mistaken for the suspect, according to an after-action report obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press.


The Portland Police Department report describes how officers rushed to secure the scene where the gunman abandoned his car after killing 18 people in the state’s deadliest shooting. Tactical team leader Nicholas Goodman said in the report that the officers who showed up without any orders risked doing more harm than good.

A second tactical team that was also responding to the incident, from Cumberland County, nearly crashed their vehicle into his, according to Goodman.


“It locked up its brakes and came to an abrupt halt with the tires making a noise a large 18-wheeler makes when it stops abruptly while carrying a copious amount of weight,” he wrote. “I’d estimate the armored car came within 20-30 feet of striking our armored car and most likely killing a number of us.”

“You could smell the aroma of intoxicants” wafting from the Cumberland vehicle, whose occupants told him they had come from a funeral, he said.


“I have never seen the amount of self-dispatching, federal involvement with plain clothes and utter chaos with self-dispatching in my career,” Goodman wrote.

Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce said in an earlier statement that an internal investigation had cleared his officers and that no one was determined to be intoxicated at the scene. He said any report of intoxicated officers should have been raised at the time, not six months afterward.


Daniel Wathen, the chairperson of an independent commission investigating the shooting, said commissioners intend to address some of the report’s “disturbing allegations” but others may be outside the panel’s scope, including the allegations of drinking.

The nine-page report, which was partially redacted, was obtained by the AP through the state’s Freedom of Access Act.


Both the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office and Portland Police Department tactical teams were responding to a location where the shooter’s vehicle was abandoned by the Androscoggin River the evening of Oct. 25, after the gunman, an Army reservist, killed 18 people and wounded 13 others at a bowling alley and a bar in Lewiston. The gunman’s body was found nearby two days later after he died by suicide.

The commission previously heard testimony from law enforcement officials about the chaotic hours after the shooting in which agencies mobilized for a search and police officers poured into the region. The panel reconvenes Friday to hear from witnesses on communications and coordination problems.


The Portland report was especially critical of self-dispatching officers. The report suggested officers who arrived to help in plain clothes — “similar clothing to the suspect” — created a dangerous situation in which officers could have exchanged fire with each other in a wooded area near the abandoned vehicle.

Tactical vehicles used by the Cumberland Sheriff’s Office and Portland police apparently were not aware of each other’s presence. The Portland team, which arrived first near the site of the gunman’s vehicle, was attempting to keep police cruisers off a bridge where lights were transforming officers into potential targets.


Copyright 2024 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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