BANGOR, Maine — It was difficult Friday to find people willing to share what they knew about what happened early Wednesday evening between two rival groups of young people before 19-year-old John “Bobby” Surles was fatally shot on Cumberland Street. But three people who were nearby at the time agreed to discuss some of what they recalled.
Two of those people would speak to a reporter only on condition of anonymity, citing concerns about retaliation.
One man said Friday that he didn’t hear the gunshot, but that he saw several teens or young adults in the area immediately afterward. He said all but a handful scattered when the first police car drove up Cumberland Street.
Eventually, the only three young people who remained were Surles, who the man said was lying partially in the street, and an unidentified young man and woman, who were standing about 2 feet away from the victim shouting at each other. Though the man said he was not sure what the two were fighting about, he did hear them arguing about what he understood was a “board.”
At first, the man said he thought that Surles was a skateboarder who had been struck by a passing vehicle. Concerned that the young man might be on the verge of hitting the young woman, the man said he was getting ready to step in between them when the male fled and the woman ran into a nearby building, he said in a brief interview Friday.
Police and an ambulance soon arrived. Surles died at the hospital late Thursday night. Zachary R. Carr, 18, of Bangor was arrested Friday and charged with knowing or intentional murder. He remains in Penobscot County Jail.
A delivery driver who was working in the area on Wednesday and who also did not want to be identified said Friday that he saw several young people armed with small sledgehammers with shortened handles on Cumberland Street shortly before the shooting took place.
Neighborhood resident Paul Baron, who was at home with his wife, Wendy, the evening of the shooting said Friday that he did not see the shooting but that he witnessed some of the aftermath.
Before the fatal shot rang out, Baron said, he had heard what he described as “loud arguing” on Cumberland Street, just around the corner from his front door.
The couple then heard a loud sharp bang that they later learned was a gunshot.
“I thought it was a plow dropping,” Baron said, noting that a local snowplow operator typically was in the area about that time of day. “My wife thought it was a gunshot,” he said.
Baron, who has lived on a side street that runs off Cumberland Street for 32 years, said it is not unusual to see groups of teens and young adults walking the streets of the neighborhood.
He said, however, that he didn’t believe the neighborhood was overrun by gangs and that he didn’t feel threatened in his home.
Some of those groups and individuals Baron has seen walking by are people with mental illnesses who are in the area for medical, social and other services. Others, he said, are neighborhood teenagers, some of whom he believes don’t have enough to do.
“Unfortunately, there are no jobs or anything to keep them occupied,” he said.