BANGOR, Maine — The man mortally wounded in a stabbing early Tuesday morning on First Street was bleeding profusely when he tried to get help from a longtime friend who said he “had a bird’s-eye view” and witnessed the attack from an upstairs apartment.
“I met my friend as he was trying to come in to get help from me,” said Eugene “Shawn” Cox, a resident of 67 First St., of his friend Andy D. Smith, who later died at the hospital.
Bangor police issued a statement about 6 p.m. Tuesday saying the state medical examiner’s office has determined that Smith’s death was a homicide and that the cause of death was stabbing. No one had been arrested by 6 p.m., according to Sgt. Bob Bishop.
On Tuesday afternoon, Cox stood just feet from the front entrance of the multiunit apartment building where a large amount of blood could be seen on the floor, steps and a door.
Cox said he was upstairs when Smith, 38, got into a fight with a woman he once lived with, with each delivering punches to each other on the street in front of the building.
Another woman, who lives at 71 First St.,“came out with a two-by-four and she hit him,” apparently in defense of the first woman, Cox said. “He got the two-by-four away from her and she called for her friends. They all started on him.”
Seconds later, Smith was bleeding from a wound to his left rib area and was trying to get away. Cox did not see who stabbed his friend.
“I ran down with a pipe,” he said. “As I was trying to get out, he was trying to get in.”
The two friends met at the bottom of the steps and after seeing all the blood, Cox helped Smith lie down before he ran upstairs to call police. The smear marks on the door were caused when the two slipped on the blood in the entryway and fell against it, he said.
Police already had been called, he learned later, and when he returned to Smith he found an officer already was standing over him who barred Cox from going downstairs or leaving the building.
“I said, ‘Hold on,’” Cox said he told his friend.
Police arrived at the scene of the fight about 1:45 a.m. They used yellow police tape to cordon off the area between Cedar and Barker streets while evidence was collected. Several police markers could be seen on the street in front of two apartment buildings at 69 and 71 First St., most likely indicating where blood was found.
Bangor police Lt. Tom Regan confirmed early Tuesday that the incident involved a stabbing, but police were otherwise tight-lipped about the incident until Tuesday evening’s statement.
“When officers arrived, we did in fact locate one male who was transported to Eastern Maine Medical Center’s emergency room who was later pronounced dead,” Sgt. Paul Edwards, the department’s blood spatter expert, said a few hours after the incident was reported. “Right now we have the criminal investigations division here interviewing, we have our evidence response team collecting evidence and we’re just shutting down First Street for an undetermined amount of time until we can finish that.”
He and a half-dozen other investigators could be seen collecting evidence and talking with people in the area between 8 and 9 a.m.
First Street was closed until about noon but investigators and the evidence response vehicle remained at the scene throughout the day.
Police had a court order to search an apartment at 71 First St., Edwards said.
Police Chief Ron Gastia, Lt. Tim Reid, who leads the department’s criminal investigation division, and other police officials had a meeting in the cordoned-off street about 8 a.m.
A woman who lives in a side apartment at 71 First St. said she heard fighting out on the street “all night long” but didn’t get up until she heard police officers arrive and start talking about someone who might be mortally wounded.
“They had people cuffed up — four or five of them — at the front of the building and there was a girl hiding in the bushes,” said Klarissa Nye, who along with her two young children moved to First Street in the fall. “I saw them take this girl — she had short pink hair and was fighting with them — and put her in the back of the cruiser.”
The suspicious death was not the first to occur on the street in recent years. The body of Christine Simonin, 43, was found in March 2007 dumped a block from the First Street apartment she shared with Ashton Moores.
On June 24, 2003, Walter Travis, then 26, stabbed and killed Thomas Forni, a friend of his father’s who lived on First Street. Forni died of multiple stab wounds, including a severe laceration of the neck. Travis killed him just after assaulting his teenage brother, James Travis, with a baseball bat at his apartment one block away on Cedar Street.
He was committed to Riverview Psychiatric Center, formerly the Augusta Mental Health Institute, after being found guilty of murder and attempted murder but not responsible for the crimes because of mental illness.
Dana Spencer, who along with his brother has owned the building next to the apartments for 34 years, said he has watched the area degrade over the decades. He approached Officer Jim Dearing on Tuesday morning and asked if police could remove the hypodermic needles in his front yard that he said drug addicts had carelessly discarded there. Dearing said the needles would be taken as evidence.
“It used to be a nice, quiet neighborhood when I moved in,” Spencer said. “It’s getting bad up here. We’ve had three or four murders since I’ve been here.”
Another neighbor, who lives across the street and asked to be identified only by his first name, Adam, said he often sees people hanging out in front of the apartments in question drinking and openly doing drugs.
Nye said she wants to move but can’t afford to at this point in her life.
“It’s just a really bad area,” she said. “Everybody is on [the synthetic drug] bath salts. I’ve walked out of my house and found needles. It’s really sad.”
No matter whether the people in the fight were drinking and doing illegal drugs, “nobody deserves that,” Nye said. “It’s really unfortunate.”
Spencer took the opportunity to warn people to be cautious when on First Street, which stretches for three blocks between Union Street and Davis Street.
“Watch your back,” the landlord said. “Don’t go out alone at night — go with with a friend.”
Police still are looking for people who have information about the fatal stabbing. Those with information about the case may call the Bangor Police Department at 947-7382. The department’s anonymous tip line can be reached by pressing ext. 6.
Cox said he has known Smith “since he was 8 and I was 7. My stepdad was friends with his relatives. We grew up together. We played together.”
He said he contacted Smith’s uncle, who lives in Hermon, and was told that the stab wound injured his friend’s liver.
“He bled out,” Cox said. “It was so senseless. This didn’t need to happen. It’s sad. It was all because they used to be nice to each other and now they’re not and a woman couldn’t keep her friends out of it. It’s craziness.”
Smith was a 1992 graduate of Bangor High School, had studied at the University of Maine and recently had lived in Mendocino, Calif., according to his Facebook page.
Smith moved back to the area three or four months ago because he has two children, ages 7 and 11, who live in Orono, his friend said.
“He told me to tell his kids that he loved them and that was the last thing he said,” Cox said.
BDN writer Andrew Neff and online editor William P. Davis contributed to this report.
Correction: An earlier version of this story said that Andy Smith was 40. Smith was 38, according to Bangor police.