Most people recognized April 4 at the annual awards ceremony of the South Portland Police Department got certificates of appreciation placed in light cardboard folders, but Officer Steven Connors walked away with something quite different, something unlike any trophy ever handed out by the city.
Inside a wooden case, alongside a department patch and the badge he wore that night, Connors was given the Taurus .25-caliber semi-automatic pistol with which he was shot four times in an incident that occurred Oct. 11, 2006.
Connors was long-ago recognized for valor in the incident, in which he attempted to arrest Terrel Guy Dubois, then 22, on a class A warrant for kidnapping, criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon, assault and terrorizing. Dubois had told Portland police he would kill any officer who tried to prevent him fleeing to Virginia and, true to his word, unloaded on Connors when found in an Elm Street apartment. From less than 5 feet away, Connors was shot in the chest, shoulder and left hand, while also suffering a non-penetrating head wound.
Last week, Connors reluctantly posed for photographs, but otherwise refused to discuss the incident.
“I appreciate your asking, but I’ve never talked about it,” he said, clutching the case with a still-deformed hand. “It was just another day.”
“Another day that went terribly bad,” said Police Chief Ed Googins, afterward.
“It was a very, very heroic thing, because this guy was a dangerous guy,” said Googins, pointedly refusing to use Dubois’ name “because he doesn’t deserve mention.”
“Luckily, he didn’t get off a good shot and the bullet did not penetrate Steve’s skull, but we didn’t know that that night,” recalled Googins. “We thought we’d lost him. It was very scary. And, even as it was, it was a couple of months before he was able to return to work.”
Googins said his department has held the weapon since the incident, but only recently got clearance to dispose of it following dismissal of Dubois‘ appeal and completion of the property forfeiture process.
“It was just this past fall that we got the final word from the D.A.’s office that they no longer needed the gun,” said Googins.
Regular awards handed out by Googins for service during the previous year included the following:
Certificates of Citizen Service
Given to people who, “through their involvement, make the community a better place to live,” whether assisting South Portland police in the performance of their duties or “extending themselves beyond their own safety to assist people in danger.”
• Ronald McIntyre and Jason Bartlett, for participation in the anti-drug campaign “Operation Pipe Dream.”
• Dennis Abrams, Stefan Adams, Maxine Beecher, Ralph Cabana, Michelle Danois, Mary Irace, Susan Larrivee, Deirdra Logan, Cindy McBrady, Megan Phinney and Susan White for work to support the city’s prescription medication drop-off program. Googins said this program netted more than 100,000 unit doses of drugs during the past year.
• Three teenagers, whose names were withheld to facilitate future details, for acting as decoys in operations aimed at ferreting out retailers and restaurateurs willing to sell alcohol to minors.
• Stephanie Bourassa, for work to support the South Portland Police Athletic and Activities (PAAL) program, specifically by running nutrition classes at the Boys and Girls Club.
• Justin Moriarty and Scott Stailing, for serving as mentors in the South Portland PAAL basketball program. “This valuable contribution of your time presented children with a structured and lasting memory,” said Goggins, when giving the award.
• Megan Entwistle, Roberta Lipsman and Brian Rank, for their work with Community Partnerships for Protecting Children. “In addition to its other activities, the CPPC promotes a more open working environment between the various social service providers, schools and police, increasing the collaboration and communication needed to problem solve and better serve the community,” said Googins.
Public Safety Award
Dispatchers at Portland Public safety, including Kevin Dickinson, Anthony Favreau, Svetlana Miljkovic, Sanela Napijalo, Anthony Pasquale, Jessica Ramsey, Lisa Rogers and Phil Viola were recognized for their work during a robbery at the Main Street Mobil station on July 15.
Law Enforcement Award
Presented to officers from neighboring cities and towns who help to resolve crimes in South Portland.
• Sgt. Eugene O’Neill and Detective Eric Greenleaf, both with the Scarborough Police Department, who aided in a Nov. 26 standoff on Beach Street in which a suicidal man pointed a gun at police called to the scene. “Your performance and teamwork in the face of this potentially deadly situation was commendable,” said Googins, in presenting the commendations.
• Sgt. Sean Lally, Sgt. Pat Lally and Officer Jeff Stackpole, all of the Westbrook Police Department, who Googins said provided “critical” aid in catching the armed robber of a local pharmacy on Sept. 5.
Community Policing Awards
“Individuals who receive this award consistently demonstrate an ability to utilize community-orientated policing tactics and develop partnerships and a problem-solving philosophy,” explained Googins.
• Robert Scarpelli and David Stailing, for volunteering to organize, coach and mentor a PAL basketball team. “Your actions reflect credit on the entire department,” said Googins.
• Linda Barker, who during the past year “participated in a significant number of community initiatives,” particularly working with CPPC, organizing a community cancer forum and helping to administer the South Portland Volunteering in Police Services (VIPS) program.
Given for “performance of an act which brings credit on the individual or group, and the South Portland Police Department as a whole.” Commendations were presented to the following:
• Special Agent Jason Pitcher and officers Scott Corbett, Rocco Navarro and Jeff Pooler, all of whom participated in an April 26 traffic stop initiated by an alert from one of the department’s automated license-plate readers. As a result, drugs, firearms and “a large amount of cash” were seized.
• Officer Corbett and Detective Christopher Todd, for work on March 10 to catch the person who had committed an armed robbery of a Circle K gas station earlier in the week.
• Officer Jeff Levesque, for his work helping to solve an arson in Redbank Village.
• Officer Michael Matheson, for actions during a robbery at the Hannaford supermarket.
• Lt. Todd Bernard and officers Corbett, Matheson, Scarpelli, Erin Curry and Kevin Webster, for their actions to help diffuse a Nov. 26 armed standoff on Beach Street.
Described by Googins as the highest level of award issued by his department, the Meritorious Award is given “for service rendered beyond the call of duty,” in which a member of the department, through “exemplary diligence and perseverance,” saves a life, catches a dangerous criminal, prevents a crime or protects property. Honorees this year included:
• Officer David Stailing, for “single-handedly” apprehending the armed robber of a Big Apple store on Oct. 7.
• Sgt. John Sutton, Special Agent Pitcher and officers Philip Longanecker, Pooler, Corbett and Navarro, all of whom helped to end a March 7 standoff in Redbank Village in which a “violently dillusional” man, who at the time was thought to be armed, was finally taken into custody after “90 minutes of careful teamwork.”
• Officers Stailing and Kevin Gerrish, for actions during the Nov. 26 standoff. “During the incident you found yourself with the male at very short range pointing a rifle at you,” said Googins, noting that the officers’ actions helped get the man to behavioral health services, rather than an emergency room.