By Johnna Ossie
Twenty-two-year-old Chance David Baker was shot and killed by Portland Police on St. John’s Street in Portland on the morning of Saturday, Feb. 18. Reports say Baker purchased a rifle-style pellet gun from a pawn shop, Coastal Trading & Pawn, in Union Station Plaza and shortly after police received calls that a man was screaming and pointing a gun at cars. Baker was killed on the sidewalk outside of the Subway while witnesses looked on. He was transported to Maine Medical Center where he died from a gunshot wound to the forehead.
Baker was shot and killed by fourteen year police veteran, Sgt. Nicholas Goodman. This is not the first time Goodman has used deadly force in his career. In 2008, Goodman shot and killed a 48-year-old man in a traffic stop when he was dragged 300 ft down the road in the man’s moving vehicle. The man died later at Maine Medical Center from gunshot wounds. The incident was ruled a justifiable homicide.
Baker’s friends, as well as staff from Portland’s Preble Street Teen Center where Baker spent time, expressed shock and grief at his death. Baker struggled on and off with homelessness, and reports say that his family, who live outside of Maine, had not heard from him in several years. Many could not believe that the young man they knew was the same young man witnesses say was shouting and waving what may have appeared to be a rifle, but which later turned out to be a pellet gun.
Local activists have demanded that the Portland Police Department (PPD) start wearing body cameras immediately after the incident. Before the shooting, the PPD had planned to start outfitting officers with body cameras in 2019.
“Witness reports are not completely consistent, and it’s far too soon to engage in speculation. But one thing is clear: If the incident had been recorded by police body cameras, we wouldn’t be so dependent on inconsistent eyewitness accounts,” reads a petition by local group Progressive Portland. “In the wake of this tragedy, the city should move that timeline up and include the purchase of body cameras in this year’s budget.”
Later in the week, a group of roughly twelve protesters disrupted a ceremony honoring Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck. The protesters stood with their arms raised over their heads and can be seen on video speaking to Sauschuck. In a video released by WMTW, a protestor can be heard asking, “How come you are silent when black people are killed?” Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling called the meeting to recess and the protestors exited to the steps of City Hall. As the protestors left the building, one person can be heard saying “Good job, murderer,” as she walked past Sauschuck. They could be seen outside chanting “Black Lives Matter,” as Sauschuck exited the building.
At a conference the next day, Sauschuck said he was “disgusted” by the “politicizing” of the fatal shooting and by the calls that PPD officers immediately begin to wear body cameras.
On Friday, a quiet and saddened crowd gathered in Monument Square in remembrance of Baker. They held candles and flowers as friends and former coworkers remembered Baker as a funny, kind and generous young man and mourned his loss.
Amanda Nobbe, a 26-year-old Portland resident and Baker’s former boss at Nickelodeon Cinemas, spoke about the two years she worked with Baker, noting how hard he worked to improve his life and how much passion he had.
“I watched him secure housing, get a second job, and work forty hours or more every single week,” she said toward the end of the vigil ceremony. “Life didn’t give Chance a lot of opportunities, so he made his own. He had so much joy and made everyone around him smile…Everybody deserves a chance, everyone deserves opportunities. If someone is asking you for a hand up and you can give it, then reach out your hand.”