UPDATE: Portland police seek man believed to have witnessed fatal shooting

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PORTLAND — A week after the fatal, early morning shooting of a Portland man, police have interviewed all potential witnesses but one.

Not all have been cooperative, Chief Michael Sauschuck said Tuesday, and the identity of the final witness remains a mystery.

No arrests have been made, and police have yet to identify a suspect in the shooting death of Matthew Blanchard, 24, who was killed at the intersection of India and Congress streets at about 1 a.m. July 11.

Blanchard’s death was the city’s first homicide of 2012.

Two other men, John Howard, 20, and 24-year-old Joshua Hersom, both of Portland, were also shot. Howard and Hersom underwent surgery that day and survived. A fourth man with the group was not injured.

The men walked through the East Bayside and India Street neighborhoods for several hours before the incident. Sauschuck told reporters Tuesday that some interactions the quartet had with other pedestrians during the course of the evening may have been hostile or confrontational.

“We do believe there was some kind of interaction that led to this (shooting),” Sauschuck said.

Police still hope to speak with an Asian man in his late teens or early 20s who was a likely witness, the chief said. Sauschuck described the man as 5 feet 10 inches tall, with a stocky build and a visible tattoo on his neck.

The man was one of several people who were at the Big Apple convenience store at 16 Washington Ave. shortly before the shooting occurred, Sauschuck said.

Video surveillance footage from the area shows him walking with a small group of people toward the scene of the shootings minutes before the shots were fired. Police have spoken to the other people who are seen with the man on the videotape, but have not been able to identify the man.

Others who were in the group either do not know his name or are not telling police, Sauschuck said.

Sauschuck did not call the man a suspect.

“I’m just saying we’d like to have a conversation … and see what he knows,” he said.

Blanchard’s group left the Auburn Street area on a walk at about 10:30 p.m. on July 10, Sauschuck said. Blanchard, who Sauschuck said had a cast on one foot due to a previous injury, was on a bicycle, while the other three men were on foot.

The men traveled along Baxter Boulevard to Franklin Street before taking Fox Street to Washington Avenue, and finally making their way to India Street in the early hours of July 11. They were walking down India Street toward the waterfront when the shooting occurred.

Witnesses said there was an argument or altercation before the shooting. Witnesses also said that two black or Asian men were seen in the area before the shooting, and that two men were seen running west on Congress Street away from the scene afterwards, Sauschuck said on the day of the shooting.

“This is an act of gun violence, so until we have individuals in custody, (having the alleged perpetrators on the loose) is certainly a concern of mine,” Sauschuck said during a press conference on July 12. 

Police were unsure where the alleged shooter went, but suspect it was north from the scene toward the Kennedy Park neighborhood. A rapid police response to the scene means the escape was made very quickly, Sauschuck said last week.

Blanchard was facing felony charges for allegedly causing the death of another person while operating after suspension in connection with a June 22 automobile crash in Falmouth that killed a Cumberland woman.

There does not appear to be a connection between that accident and the shooting, Sauschuck said, nor is there a known relationship between the victims and their assailants.

Police are asking anyone with information about the case contact them by texting the keyword GOTCHA and their message to 274637 (CRIMES), or via the anonymous tip function at www.portland-police.com. The department also has a crime tip phone line at 784-8584.

Andrew Cullen can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or acullen@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @ACullenFore.

Last updated on Tuesday, July17, 2012.

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Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck addresses reporters July 11 at a press conference about a fatal shooting on India Street early that morning. Matthew Blanchard, 24, of Portland, was killed, and two other men were injured in the crime, which is still under investigation.

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