PORTLAND — Police on Monday said a 20-year-old Gray man is responsible for a deadly assault in Monument Square early Sunday morning.
William Googins turned himself in to police Monday afternoon. He was charged with aggravated assault in connection with the death of 24-year-old Eric Benson of Westbrook.
Police said Benson was walking to an apartment in the West End with a female friend a little after 1 a.m. Sunday morning, following a night out in the Old Port. As he passed through Monument Square, Benson and his friend were confronted by three young men, police said, one of whom made derogatory comments toward the woman.
“(Benson) was trying to protect the young lady involved,” Assistant Police Chief Mike Sauschuck said. The woman reportedly was standing behind Benson when he was allegedly punched once by Googins, and fell unconscious to the ground.
“We believe this is a completely random attack,” Sauschuck said. “(Googins) is not talking to us right now,” he added, so police do not know what motivated him. Sauschuck said Googins has a juvenile record.
Police said they have also interviewed the two men who were with Googins at the time of the assault and are not charging them with anything.
The Congress Street corridor is busy on weekend nights, and Sauschuck said there were several witnesses to the assault. Some administered CPR while others called 911. Portland emergency responders and police arrived on the scene at about 1:25 a.m., and Benson was taken to Maine Medical Center.
Police were notified at noon on Monday that Benson had died.
Witnesses at the scene were able to describe the suspects and the assault, according to police, who are also reviewing surveillance camera footage of the square.
Sauschuck said Googins was intoxicated at the time of the assault, and he had been in the Old Port with friends at several bars that night, despite being only 20 years old.
“All the parties were returning from the Old Port,” Sauschuck said. “They just happened to bump into each other.”
Googins, accompanied by family members, turned turned himself in at the Portland Department around 4 p.m. Monday. He is being held at Cumberland County Jail and his case is being reviewed by the district attorney.
Benson attended the University of Maine at Farmington and was a former member of Westbrook High School’s award-winning marching band. Friends from UMF set up a Facebook page to remember the 24-year-old; hundreds of people had posted comments and photos as of Tuesday morning.
The Facebook page also contains posts from Benson family members that visiting hours are scheduled Saturday, May 29, from 10 a.m. to noon at St. Hyacinth Church in Westbrook.
Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or firstname.lastname@example.org