- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 28, 2009

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) | Police officials met with members of the city’s Sudanese community to try to calm fears after police officers shot and killed an armed 26-year-old Sudanese man, the second violent death in seven months of an immigrant from the African nation.

Two Portland officers fired multiple shots at the man Saturday night, when he reached into his waistband and brandished a gun, police said. In the chaotic moments after the shooting, neighbors heatedly accused police of shooting when they didn’t have to.

With emotions running high soon after the shooting, members of the Sudanese community were demanding answers, said acting police Chief Joe Loughlin. Chief Loughlin said he has since met with members of Portland’s Sudanese community and talked with others by phone. Additional meetings were expected.

“I’m trying to keep everyone calm,” Chief Loughlin said. “My appeal is to stay calm until we get all the facts.”

In September, a Sudanese man was fatally shot outside Mercy Hospital while on the job as a security guard. The case remains unsolved.

There are an estimated 2,500 to 3,000 Sudanese refugees in Portland. Sara Epicho, general secretary of the Sudanese Community Association, said many in the community feel sad, angry and empty. Most of all, they want answers.

“This time, the shooting was done by police,” she said. “And we haven’t gotten an exact picture of the situation. All of us are affected.”

Someone called 911 on Saturday evening to report that there was a man in front of a six-unit apartment building who appeared to be intoxicated and showing a handgun to a passer-by.

Officers found a group of men in front of the apartment house, and one of the men ran up the steps to the building’s front porch, police said. The man reached into his waistband and brandished a semiautomatic pistol, police said.

Officers Benjamin Roper and Joshua Wiseman fired multiple shots, killing him.

Police said they would not release the victim’s name until they had a positive identification from an autopsy.

The Portland Press Herald said family members identified the victim as David Okot. A person who answered the phone listed under the Okot name said the family had no immediate comment on the shooting, but might have a statement later in the week.

The Portland Police Department and the Maine Attorney General’s Office are investigating. The officers have been placed on paid administrative leave, as is common in police shootings.

On Monday, a man swept and then poured bleach on the porch where the shooting occurred. Three bullet holes were visible in the side of the building. On a sidewalk nearby, candles and flowers were left to pay tribute to the victim.

Dozens of members of Portland’s Sudanese community held a memorial service Sunday night with songs and prayer, said Deborah Oliver, who lives across the street from the apartment building and participated in the service. She said people identified as the victim’s family members were sobbing.

“Their crying was so painful it made me cry,” Ms. Oliver said.

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