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Some witnesses to deadly triple shooting uncooperative, person of interest still at large, Portland police say

Seth Koenig | BDN
Seth Koenig | BDN
Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck answers questions from reporters Tuesday at department headquarters during a noontime press briefing, July 17, 2012. Sauschuck told members of the media that police are seeking to identify an approximately 5-foot-10-inch Asian man with a neck tattoo in relation to a deadly triple shooting that took place on July 11.
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By Seth Koenig, BDN Staff

PORTLAND, Maine — Portland police believe some witnesses questioned about last week’s deadly triple shooting are not being fully cooperative, and are asking for the public’s help in finding a man investigators think may know something about the crime.

Police Chief Michael Sauschuck held a noontime press briefing Tuesday at the department headquarters, and said detectives are on the lookout for an Asian man described as 5-foot-10-inches tall, with a stocky build and prominent neck tattoo.

Sauschuck said it’s too early in the investigation to call the man a suspect in the shooting, which left one man dead and two others hospitalized early on the morning of July 11. He said police have watched surveillance video from several businesses and buildings in the area of the attack since the incident occurred, and have tracked down and spoken to most every passer-by seen in the footage, with the notable except for the man described above.

The chief said the man was seen in a group of people gathered at a nearby Washington Avenue Big Apple convenience store — a group seen headed in the direction of the attack just moments before it occurred. Sauschuck said detectives have spoken to every individual in the group except the man police are now looking for, and the others in the group have not helped investigators identify him.

“They either don’t have his name or they aren’t giving us his name,” Sauschuck said during Tuesday’s news conference. “So we’re looking for the public’s help in identifying him.”

Sauschuck added that “We’re not sure we’re getting the full truth from all the witnesses we’ve spoken to.”

Matthew Blanchard, 24, a Southern Maine Community College student, was killed in the shooting while friends John Howard, 20, and Joshua Hersom, 24, were transported to Maine Medical Center for treatment of injuries that were not life threatening.

Police have said witnesses reported seeing two “black or Asian” men running from the scene of the crime in the aftermath of the shooting.

During a press briefing last week, the chief outlined the route the three victims took late Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning before the shooting occurred, around 1 a.m. near the intersection of India and Congress streets. At the time, Sauschuck said investigators were aware of several interactions the eventual victims had with other parties they crossed paths with along the way, but said police didn’t believe those interactions were confrontational or precursors to the shooting.

On Tuesday, the chief suggested detectives are now not so sure all the interactions were peaceful.

Responding to a question of whether those interactions were “negative” or politely conversational, Sauschuck said Tuesday: “A little bit of both.”

“We do believe there was some kind of interaction that led to this,” he said.

The chief reiterated Tuesday, however, that police do not believe drugs or gang activity played a role in the crime.

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