PORTLAND — Police on a drug raid at an apartment near Hadlock Field early Monday morning reportedly found enough explosive devices to take out a city block.
Police began investigating the possible drug distribution operation on Park Avenue two months ago, following the drive-by shooting of a Philadelphia man June 7 near the bar Una on Fore Street. They say the two incidents are related and believe the man was shot because he was invading the territory of local drug dealers.
“Our theory here is the individuals who were involved in the shooting live in Portland and didn’t take kindly to an outsider coming in and trying to set up shop,” said Police Chief James Craig. No one has been arrested in connection with the June 7 shooting.
The raid Monday, which involved 240 Park Ave., 236 Park Ave. and 115 Sherwood St., also resulted in the discovery of $2,000 worth of crack cocaine, two handguns, a rifle and a shotgun, according to Craig. The chief said more than 20 pipe bombs were found at 240 Park Ave.
“We don’t know why they were manufacturing pipe bombs,” Craig said. A few of the bombs were detonated near the Park Avenue apartments by police and members of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. According to the chief, some of the devices found had shrapnel in them.
Four people, all Portland residents, were arrested on charges of aggravated trafficking in cocaine. William Hopkins, 38, and Michael Pressey, 29, both of Portland, were arrested at 240 Park Ave. William Holmes, 33, and Melissa Stairs, 29, were arrested at 115 Sherwood St. and are all being held at Cumberland County Jail.
Craig said additional charges could be added.
The ATF has taken custody of the remaining pipe bombs. Craig, who served on the Los Angeles police force for more than 20 years, said he had never seen such a large quantity of pipe bombs in one location.
“I would say coming into contact with that amount of explosives is not common,” he said. He said one pipe bomb can take out a car or small building. Twenty, he said, could take out a city block.
Police believe the alleged Park Avenue drug dealers were living in one of the apartments and distributing out of the other. Crack cocaine, two handguns and a rifle were seized from the Park Avenue apartments, along with the pipe bombs.
Crack cocaine, one handgun and a shotgun were also found at the Sherwood Street home.
Craig said the investigation into the drug raid Monday and the June 7 drive-by shooting are ongoing. The Maine Drug Enforcement Agency and the Southern Maine Violent Crime Task Force were also involved in Monday’s raid.
Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or firstname.lastname@example.org