BANGOR, Maine — The story behind the shooting death of 19-year-old John “Bobby” Surles did not start on the day he was mortally wounded last week; it started a year ago and his friends are now using text messages and the Internet to intimidate and threaten friends of the 18-year-old man accused of shooting him.
Surles was shot around 6 p.m. Wednesday during a fight involving young people on Cumberland Street, and died at 11:08 p.m. Thursday, police said. Zachary Carr, 18, who lived at 57 Cumberland St. was arrested on Friday afternoon and charged with killing him.
“We’re the ones still getting death threats,” Carr’s roommate, a 17-year-old who asked not to be identified, said while sitting in the living room of the apartment the two shared with his mother and little sister.
Surles’ friends have called and sent text and Internet messages threatening them and their families, have followed people associated with them, and have even set up a Facebook page threatening revenge, they say. Notes left on the Facebook page read: “john surles friends will get revenge” and “revenge might not be the answer but for bobby’s sake its aight.”
“It’s all over MySpace that they want revenge,” Megan Thibodeau, 18, who was at Carr’s house when the fight happened, said Sunday.
“There is a text message going around that says they have a gun with our names on it,” the 17-year-old roommate said.
“The cops had to come last night because they keep driving by,” said Brook White, 17, who spends a lot of time at the Cumberland Street apartment. “It’s to the point where we can’t even walk outside.”
“My mom called the cops” but nothing has been done, Carr’s roommate said.
Carr, who was taken to Penobscot County Jail after his arrest, will have his first appearance in court today. Police have released few details about the case, saying they will be in the court affidavit.
There are conflicting stories about exactly what happened during the fight, but both groups say a fight between the two groups was planned at another location, and when that fell through, Surles and his friends went to Cumberland Street.
Carr’s friends say the fight on Wednesday started when Surles and his friends threatened to burn down the apartment house where Carr and Dakota Nielson-Ashby, 18, had been staying with the young family of three.
“They came here and said they were going to burn our house down,” the 17-year-old said. “I looked out [the window] and they were on the corner. One was holding a shovel behind his back and it looked like a gas tank.”
His mom, who also asked not to be identified, told the boys to go into their room and then headed into the kitchen, slamming the door as she went. The boys thought she went downstairs to confront Surles’ group and went out after her.
“We all thought she went outside,” the 17-year-old said. Once downstairs, “all hell broke loose.”
Nielson-Ashby and Carr’s 17-year-old roommate — both of whom were in the group fight — say Carr was defending himself from an attack by Surles.
“I looked over and saw Bobby beating Zack with a metal pipe,” Nielson-Ashby said. “The next thing I heard was a gunshot and everyone started running, including me. Zack acted in self-defense. There was six of them against four.”
The tension between the two groups of teens and young adults has been building and the fighting has “been going on for almost a year now,” Nielson-Ashby said.
It began, he said, when a planned fist fight at Chapin Park last year got out of hand when Surles’ friends arrived in mass with weapons and pepper spray, and one member recorded the fight with his cell phone.
Since then, “We’ve been fighting back and forth,” the 17-year-old roommate said.
“This is heart breaking,” his mother said. “Especially since this kid [Surles] was your friend only a year ago.”
After Surles was shot, he called out for help, but all the young people had scattered. A woman driving by stopped and comforted him until emergency crews arrived, while a man provided a blanket and prayer.
The young family and Carr’s friends fear retaliation, the mother of Carr’s roommate said.
“How come these kids aren’t being charged with stalking?” she asked. “They keep driving by.”