Sep. 28-Portland city workers cleared a homeless campsite from Deering Oaks Park and picked up trash and syringes in the area early Wednesday, hours before former Gov. Paul LePage was scheduled to appear at the park to talk about crime.
LePage held a news conference at 10:30 a.m. in front of a pond that the city drained earlier this month to help Portland police search for a gun used in a fatal shooting. The incident in the park was one of an unusual series of unrelated shootings in the city this summer. LePage spoke about the series of shootings in Portland, then focused on problems related to illegal drug use in communities around the state.
LePage's news conference comes two weeks after the Republican candidate for Congress in the 1st District also held a news conference at the park to highlight the rise violence. Ed Thelander, who is challenging Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, said Democrats were partly responsible. "Much of the blame for this rise in crime are the results of policies pushed by Rep. Pingree and her progressive colleagues in Washington," he said.
City workers arrive shortly after 7 a.m. and picked up loose trash and syringes, including in an area of the park where small groups of homeless people have set up campsites. They also told two people they had to leave a camp that was closest to the pond. The workers picked up the context of one, including a bicycle and clothing, and threw them into a front end loader, which carried them to a dump truck.
Jeremy Green, 39, collapsed his tent after being asked by a park ranger to pack up and leave Deering Oaks. Green, who has been homeless in Portland for three years said it is the first time he has been asked to leave the park after a month of living there. He said he didn't know why he was asked to move Wednesday.
Other campers in the park who were not asked to leave said the cleanup using a front-end loader seemed unusual, but they did not know why the crews arrived when they did.
The park's pond has been drained since early this month after Walter Omal, a 31-year-old from Portland, was shot Sept. 7 near a pair of park benches facing the pond close to the intersection of Park Avenue and State Street. He was rushed to the hospital and later died.
Amin Awes Mohamed, 38, from Boston is charged with one count of murder and is being held without bail at Cumberland County Jail. An affidavit that could explain the evidence in the case has been sealed.
In their search for evidence, police ordered the park's pond drained late Wednesday, and by Thursday afternoon, half a dozen investigators had put on waterproof gear and waded into the mud, using their feet, rakes, shovels and metal detectors to look for a weapon.
This story will be updated.