PORTLAND — Rob Patchett, a customer service representative at Complete Labor & Staffing on Preble Street, had a difficult phone call Monday morning.
Patchett said he and a client had to discuss the death on Feb. 18 of 22-year-old Chance David Baker.
“He was probably one of the most reliable guys we had here,” Patchett said of Baker, who was shot and killed outside the Subway restaurant at 296 St. John St. by Portland Police Sgt. Nicholas Goodman.
Patchett and his office staff recalled Baker as a cheerful, hard worker who had a long-term assignment “because the company kept calling and asking him to come back.”
Police said they encountered someone quite different Feb. 18 when they were called to the Union Station Plaza shopping center around 11:10 a.m.
“It was reported that a man was walking through the parking lot screaming and pointing a gun at cars,” Assistant Chief Vern Malloch said in a Feb. 18 press release. “While responding to the scene, officers heard conflicting reports that the weapon was a shotgun, rifle, or a BB gun. They found the man still brandishing the weapon in front of the Subway Sandwich Shop.”
In a Feb. 19 press release, Malloch identified Goodman as the officer who shot Baker, who died after being taken to Maine Medical Center.
After Baker was shot, police determined he was carrying a “rifle-style pellet gun with a wooden stock and scope,” Malloch said.
The image of Baker acting so erratically did not sound familiar to people outside Preble Street Resource Center on Monday. Baker, who arrived in Portland from Iowa as a teenager, had endured homelessness and struggles, and treated people with empathy, Matt Taylor said.
“He helped me a lot,” Taylor said. “He was very friendly, a nice person who was accepting.”
Baker was remembered for the Cam Newton football jersey he favored and aspirations to be a rapper, and the determination that had him working several jobs.
“He was trying to make sure he had something,” Taylor said.
Goodman, a 14-year Police Department veteran and supervisor in the patrol division, has been placed on administrative leave while the shooting is investigated by the department, Malloch said.
Malloch said administrative leave is standard procedure after a police-involved shooting. He said the department also notified the state attorney general’s office.
Under state law, the attorney general independently investigates all officer-involved shootings.
“The use of deadly force by police is a serious event with potentially tragic consequences,” Malloch said. “The department utilizes multiple levels of review, by several different entities, to ensure we continue to provide the highest level of service and maintain the trust of our citizens. We are saddened by the loss of life and send our condolences to the friends and family of Mr. Baker.”
This is the second time Goodman has used deadly force in his career. On May 3, 2008, Albert Wayne Kittrell, 48, of Portland, was killed by Goodman during a traffic stop. While trying to arrest Kittrell, Goodman was dragged nearly 300 feet after Kittrell’s SUV suddenly accelerated. Goodman’s use of deadly force was later justified, Malloch said.
Goodman has never been the subject of any department disciplinary actions and has received 22 unit citations and two awards for bravery. He was named Police Officer of the Year in 2015, Malloch said. His career experience also includes teaching at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy and serving with the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency until his promotion to sergeant in October 2016.
Malloch said the department will also establish a separate review team after the AG’s investigation is completed. The team will consist of department command staff and officers, the department’s legal adviser, a member of the Maine State Police, a police chief from another department and a community member.
The review team will make recommendations on any needed changes in training, equipment, policies or procedures, Malloch said.
Baker’s death came two days after members of the City Council Finance Committee learned more about having city police officers wear body cameras on duty.
City Manager Jon Jennings is set to add $400,000 to the fiscal year 2019 capital improvements budget to purchase cameras.
Jennings said Police Chief Michael Sauschuck is looking into grant funding sources for a pilot program to begin using the cameras this year, at an anticipated cost of $25,000.
On Monday, Strimling again called for the full program to be set up this year, a goal he included in his State of the City address in January.
He was echoed this week by the ACLU of Maine.
“Introducing body cameras, along with proper policies to protect privacy and due process, will help us better understand what happens in these situations,” a Maine ACLU press release said, while also calling for more training for police to help de-escalate situations where someone may be having a mental health crisis.
Updated Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017.