Chance David Baker lay dying on a sidewalk in front of the Subway sandwich shop at Union Station Plaza.

He was wearing an oversized hunting jacket camouflaged to look like an autumn forest. It had been his beloved grandfather’s. Next to him on the ground was a pellet rifle he’d bought 15 minutes earlier at nearby Coastal Trading & Pawn, as well as an unfinished 40-ounce bottle of Colt 45 malt liquor, wrapped in a red bandanna.

It was 11:19 a.m. and he was falling-down drunk, with a blood alcohol level of at least 0.241.

Inside Baker’s pocket was a paycheck from a temporary agency in Portland, dated Feb. 18, 2017, that very morning. He’d worked the day before, loading and unloading trucks, and made a little more than $100.

Until eight months before his death, Baker had worked three minimum wage jobs simultaneously. He was 22 years old and thrived on paychecks; they’d pulled him out of homelessness before and maybe they would again.

Lodged inside his brain was a single bullet, shot by Portland police Sgt. Nicholas Goodman because Baker, acting erratically and waving the gun around, had – over the course of the prior 10 minutes – been deemed a threat. Goodman, who declined to comment for this story, told investigators he was afraid for his own safety and for that of others in the shopping center.

No ruling has been issued yet by the Maine Office of the Attorney General as to whether Baker’s death was a justifiable homicide (the office has never declared any police shooting unjustified). But an investigative report released to the Maine Sunday Telegram last week in response to a Freedom of Access Act request sheds light not just on that day but Baker’s other interactions with police in his last year, revealing paranoia, hallucinations and erratic behavior in keeping with what his family and friends believe was an undiagnosed mental health illness.

The investigative report is full of dates, times, police business; it’s about public safety. Thus there’s nothing in there about that paycheck, or the many others Baker accumulated in Maine since his arrival from Iowa in 2012. For those who loved or liked him, the story of Chance David Baker cannot be complete unless you talk about the way he smiled, the way he strived, the friendships he made and sadly, the mental deterioration in his last year that most of them only guessed at and which deposited him squarely in Goodman’s sights on a cold February day in 2017.

FROM IOWA FIELDS, WITH DREAMS

“An old country boy,” his mother, Shantel Baker, calls Chance now, talking on the phone from the apartment in Glenwood, Iowa, where she lives with her mother, Terry Baker, and their collective grief and unrelenting confusion about what happened to the young man they loved.

Chance David Baker is pictured in cap and gown during his 2013 graduation from the Portland Adult Education program. An avid hunter and fisherman, the Iowa native came to Portland a year earlier, reporting back to family members about being able to fish off the piers on the waterfront. Photo courtesy of Molly Haley

She had named him Chance because it was a wonder he was born at all. She had miscarried before, and during her pregnancy with Chance, she had lost his twin. Chance had epilepsy when he was small but by the time he was 7 had outgrown it, his mother said.

In this small town of about 5,000 near the Nebraska border, she and Terry taught him to be polite, but the way he cared about others surprised even those already inclined to adore him. That time he went door to door, gathering cast-off coats for less fortunate children who lived nearby. The way he always said that even if you had nothing to give, you could always give a smile.

He’d left them in 2012, bound for Portland. The Baker family had friends who were from Portland and lived in Iowa for a time; they’d brought Chance to Maine in the summer, and he’d loved it. After that family moved back to Maine, Chance began talking of moving to Portland himself.

His mother extracted a promise that he’d finish high school once he got to Maine. School had never been his thing; he’d rather have been fishing and hunting. He took down his first deer at age 7, with his grandfather, the one whose jacket Chance was wearing when he died. Chance loved fishing so much, he’d do it in a ditch, his mother said. “It was just rainwater, but to him it was like he was going to catch a shark,” Shantel Baker said.

From Portland, he called home to tell them about fishing off the piers. He also told them he’d been asked to leave the home of his childhood best friend. In the spring of 2013 he’d been arrested twice, first for breaking into a house in April, then for trespassing in May, and was no longer welcome. He told them not to worry; he’d found Preble Street and was getting help there.

Donna Bilodeau, a former caseworker at the Preble Street Teen Center, had a routine on Wednesday mornings, when she would ask the young people she was working with to join her for a walk around Back Cove. “Chance was the only one that ever took me up on the offer,” Bilodeau remembers. They’d circle the cove, with Chance telling her of his childhood in Iowa, of riding four-wheelers and fishing. He was excited to get his GED, to take computer classes, and to use the resources at Preble Street.

“He was there for anything and everything that would better his life,” Bilodeau said.

In Iowa, Shantel Baker tried not to worry. Chance said he’d be fine, but then he always said that. He called her every couple of days. She’d send Subway coupons to him whenever she could, care of Preble Street.

NO TIME TO SLEEP

The caseworkers at Preble Street rejoiced when the friendly kid from Iowa began landing jobs, at the Nickelodeon Cinemas and at the Hampton Inn on Fore Street. At the hotel, he worked an overnight shift, helping with the night audit (balancing the books), occasionally valet parking and greeting guests. They gave him a navy blue blazer, a uniform that was optional, but he latched onto.

“He took so much pride in wearing it,” said Tasha Sheff-Horton, who supervised Baker at the Hampton Inn and quickly developed a sisterly affection for him. She’d text as she came on in the morning: Did Baker need a breakfast sandwich from McDonald’s? Chicken McNuggets?

“He acted like I was bringing him steak from Fore Street,” Sheff-Horton said.

Most nights Baker worked with Paula Dyar. The guests appreciated how unfailingly polite he was, Dyar said. “You could watch how his body language changed when a guest walked up. He’d straighten right up.” She felt protected by him if there were drunken guests or angry customers. In the downtime, they talked.

“He had so many dreams that I honestly couldn’t keep track of them,” Dyar said.

Sitting at the Union Station Plaza site where their friend and former Hampton Inn co-worker Chance Baker was shot by police last year, Tasha Sheff-Horton, left, and Paula Dyar share memories of him last week. “He had so many dreams that I honestly couldn’t keep track of them,” says Dyar. Staff photo by Ben McCanna

There was music – he’d be a rapper, he told her – and there was the apprenticeship he was doing at ‘Til Death Tattoo, learning how to do body piercings. But maybe he’d build a shelter for pit bulls, the dogs he’d grown up with, which he loved the best.

Baker had little time for the kinds of dreams that happen with your eyes closed, because he barely slept. He’d arrive at the Hampton Inn around 11:30 p.m., immediately following a shift at the Nickelodeon that began at 5:30 p.m. He sold tickets and concessions and cleaned at the Nickelodeon. Sometimes he’d see someone from his Preble Street days, like Peggy Akers, who had helped him at the Teen Center.

“He would give me a great big hug,” Akers said. “He was always wonderful.”

Three days a week, he’d go from the Nickelodeon to the Hampton Inn and then go back to his apartment building on Marginal Way, where he did maintenance and cleaning work. Mike Day, who was mentoring him to be a piercer at ‘Til Death Tattoo, describes Baker as layering on clothes so he could peel off an outside layer when he got to job 1, then take another layer off for job 2. Baker was like Clark Kent, peeling off his suit to reveal a Superman outfit, except he was doing it for jobs where he was making slightly more than minimum wage.

Chance Baker grew up in Iowa, and moved to Maine in 2012. Courtesy photo

“He was probably the hardest-working person I have ever met,” said Zach Cunningham, who worked with him at the Nickelodeon, and then, with Baker’s help, got a job at the Hampton Inn.

“He saved every penny he earned,” Dyar said. “He was shockingly responsible with his money.”

But he was generous at the same time, showing up with a stuffed animal for Dyar, and for Cunningham a concoction that involved mashing Fritos onto a frozen pizza and melting it with extra cheese. “Just like an abomination, you know?” Cunningham said, laughing. He thanked Baker, but said he told him: “This is really good, but you should maybe eat it once a year.”

His co-workers worried about how little sleep Baker got. Cunningham remembers walking into the tiny room behind the concession counter at the Nickelodeon, the one where the ice and soda machines are kept, along with two big buckets of oil for making popcorn. Baker was lying on top of the buckets.

“He looked like a cat, curled up asleep,” Cunningham said.

Chance Baker worked like a machine. And then the machine started to break down.

ROCKING, TURNING INWARD

Early in 2016, co-workers at both the Hampton Inn and Nickelodeon started noticing changes in Baker’s behavior. “He started turning inward and getting quiet,” Dyar said.

Then came strange incidents. Rocking under the desk. Claiming that someone had infiltrated the computer systems.

Dyar stepped out of the back office one night to find him sitting on the floor, surrounded by a dozen of the black binders they used for accounting purposes. He had spread them out around him. “He looked up and said, ‘I am looking for an earring.’” By the next night he was fine.

“Whatever happened to him seemed to happen all at once,” Cunningham said. Baker shared paranoid fantasies with Cunningham. “He had this whole elaborate theory that people were trying to kill him.”

Baker had not been in any trouble with the law for nearly three years. But on June 23 the Portland police were called to his apartment building on Marginal Way. Baker had told the building’s manager that there were explosives in his apartment and that he was going to remove them himself.

The police arrived and found no explosives, but they did find a grow operation for psychedelic mushrooms and a clearly unbalanced Baker.

They took him to Maine Medical Center for a medical evaluation.

One of the officers sent to remove the contraband was Portland police Sgt. Nicholas Goodman, a special agent of the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, although he and Baker did not cross paths that day.

Later, at ‘Til Death Tattoo, Baker recounted the story of the explosives to Mike Day. “He firmly believed that they were still in there,” Day said. “That a woman from the apartment below came up and took them so that the police wouldn’t find them.”

Day enjoyed Baker’s eccentricities, from the layered-on clothing to the wild ideas he had for tattoos, and had never found him aggressive or scary, but the young man’s conviction that someone was trying to blow up his apartment was the last straw. The staff decided it was time to end Baker’s apprenticeship.

Around this time, Baker told Dyar he was scared. He did not understand what was happening to him. “I think I had a seizure,” he told her. Maybe his childhood epilepsy was coming back. He’d been in the middle of his cleaning job at the apartment building and then blacked out. “He told me, ‘All I remember is I was doing my job and the next thing I know, I am being yelled at.’ ”

She was with him on the night of his last shift at the hotel on July 7. Cunningham was mopping the floor when Baker arrived. “He seemed a little off,” Cunningham said. He followed Baker into the break room and saw him struggling to clock in. Cunningham told him he should go home, but Baker ignored him.

The Temptations were in town to play a concert at the Maine State Pier and were guests at the Hampton Inn that night. One member of the R&B group was staying in a room on a floor right above the staff room.

Baker tried to enter that guest’s room at least twice, Dyar said, and the guest was alarmed. Tasha Sheff-Horton was called into work at 2 a.m. “We had to send Chance home,” she said. “I think he didn’t get it at all. I think he was really sad.”

The next day he was fired. Baker told his co-workers he’d been drinking the night before and apologized profusely.

“I think he was trying to self-medicate,” Sheff-Horton said.

His friends rarely saw him in an altered state, but knew he drank a little, used psychedelic mushrooms on occasion and may have smoked pot or used K2, a synthetic drug also known as Spice.

Jenna Mehnert, the executive director of the Maine chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Health, stressed that she is not a clinician and never met Baker. But for people who are experiencing psychosis, self-medication is “incredibly common.”

“When your reality is not everybody else’s reality, life gets a lot harder,” Mehnert said. “And then when you turn to substances, your reality is altered but it is very much altered by you.”

THREE JOBS AND A HOME, GONE

In the course of three or four weeks, Chance David Baker was out of all three jobs as well as a place to live. He stopped answering texts from his friends. He left a backpack on the street containing a bottle of whiskey and an appointment card for Preble Street Resource Center.

Cunningham called the Bakers in Iowa to update them on Chance, particularly on the incident at his apartment building. His mother and grandmother both began to wonder about his mental health. He’d never been diagnosed.

“You know, I think about the age period when schizophrenia evolves in young men,” Terry Baker said. “Chance was in that range.”

According to Mehnert, onsets of schizophrenia typically happen between ages 18 and 30, with the majority in the range between 18 to 24.

A 2012 Maine Sunday Telegram investigation of police-related shootings found that 42 percent of people shot by the police since 2000 – and 58 percent of those who died as a result – had suffered from mental illness. There have been 53 officer-related shootings between Jan. 1, 2012, and December 2017 and 28 people died from deadly police force during that time.

Baker’s mother, Shantel, kept calling, but he didn’t return their calls. Frantic, they filed a missing persons report with Portland police on Aug. 30. “They told me they had a million mental health issues out there and that I needed to put my shoes on and come find him yourself,” Shantel Baker said.

But neither she nor Terry had the money to come to Portland.

Chance Baker dropped by ‘Til Death Tattoo now and then, not seeming to understand he didn’t work there anymore. Day thinks he may have been sleeping on the rocks near the Eastern Promenade. Others heard he was in Tent City, a homeless encampment behind a strip mall on Brighton Avenue. On Sept. 1, Portland police Detective Christopher Giesecke reached Baker on his cellphone and recorded him saying he was ignoring his family and did not wish to speak to them.

He played it for Shantel and Terry Baker.

“We told him, ‘That was not Chance,’ ” Shantel Baker said. “‘That was his voice, but that was not my son.’”

In October, a police officer stationed near the Oxford Street shelter saw Baker acting strangely, “clearly behaving in a manner that questioned his mental health.” He was playing with a bag of dog feces. He rolled in it. Police and shelter workers approached him, and called the Home Team, a group of outreach staffers who transport intoxicated people to the city’s so-called “wet” shelter for drunks.

But they declined to take him because of drug use, an officer wrote in a report. Police called for EMTs to evaluate him, but found no medical reason to transport him. Baker also reached into his pants and exposed himself to a female Home Team worker.

He was arrested and taken to the Cumberland County Jail.

That’s heartbreaking, Mehnert said, but “I guarantee you those officers didn’t want that outcome.”

She gives much credit to Portland for training its officers to deal with situations like this. “I’m going to tell you, Portland is where you are going to get the best outcome with a mental health call,” Mehnert added.

There simply wasn’t a better alternative, she said. He couldn’t go to the shelter, because he would have been disruptive. What Baker needed was a clinical assessment center, and time with the kind of personnel who could gain his trust and develop a plan for medications for him, she said. Even medical evaluators at a hospital would not be able to detain him unless he met the standard – meaning that he posed an imminent danger to himself or others.

The only time he did that was on the day he was shot.

STARLINGS IN THE TREES

Terry Baker remembers how the black starlings would gather in the trees outside her house. “They would just sit there and squawk and carry on,” she said. She’d call to her grandson. “I would tell Chance, ‘Get that BB gun and go out there and scare them.’ ”

“This is Iowa,” she said. “Everybody and their dog has a BB gun.”

On Chance David Baker’s last morning in the city he loved, he bought an air rifle. It shot pellets, but would have been much like the BB gun he used as a kid.

There’s been a lot of speculation about why, but opinions differ even among his friends. They had lost track of him. He had stopped answering Tasha Sheff-Horton’s texts, her offers to let him stay in her guest room. His family believes he was staying with a friend. Some thought he was sleeping in a tent somewhere. Day wondered if he was camping out near the Eastern Promenade. Many wondered whether the air rifle might have been his idea of a way to protect himself on the streets, from dangers real and imagined. Around December, Bilodeau ran into him on the street in the morning, on his way to get a new Social Security card; he’d lost his. He was working, doing day labor. She asked him how his apartment was, but “he didn’t want to talk about it.” He was still smiling, still saying things were fine.

“Every time I saw him he was the same Chance, always looking for the silver lining,” Bilodeau said.

A DOOMED PURCHASE

On the footage from the security camera outside the Coastal Trading & Pawn, Baker stumbles into view. He pauses, leans back, raises his chin, looks toward the door, nods, regains his balance and pushes open the door.

Underneath his grandfather’s coat, he wore a black sweatshirt with its hood pulled over a dark-blue baseball cap. Baker pulled an earbud from his ear. He was always listening to music, his friends said, often loudly.

Once inside, he browsed, swaying slightly, picking up DVDs, a hunting bow and in the same aisle, a pump-style, B3 .177-caliber, single-shot pellet rifle equipped with a scope.

He looked through the scope, aiming it toward the front wall of the store.

Security video footage captures the arrival of a visibly intoxicated Chance Baker at the pawn shop where he purchased the pellet gun moments before the fatal encounter. Video footage courtesy of Office of the Attorney General

This store is one of six pawnshops in Maine run by Rick LaChapelle. Although they don’t sell many real guns at the Union Station Plaza location, save for couple of antique rifles hung high on a wall, the businesses collectively have a federal firearms license, meaning they have the option to buy and sell guns at any of their locations.

Federal law gives gun-sellers latitude to refuse a sale of a firearm to anyone for any reason.

But there is no such law for air guns and pellet guns, and in Maine, among the few regulations of air-powered weapons is the minimum age, 16, to purchase one.

Baker manipulated the pump lever, the mechanism that builds up the air pressure that when released, sends the pellet screaming down the barrel at up to 500 feet per second.

After 90 seconds with the rifle in his hands, he walked directly to the counter, standing up straight, the way he had back at the Hampton Inn, and paid $79 for the gun.

LaChapelle, who was vacationing outside the country, did not respond to a request for comment about what guidelines he gives employees about when they should refuse to sell someone a weapon, even if it is not a firearm.

‘DEFINITELY A BB GUN’

Baker stumbled out of the store and onto the sidewalk with the rifle in his hands. Once outside, he paused again, propping himself against a metal railing, and then tumbling to the ground.

Two passers-by helped him up.

Around 11:07 a.m., Baker cut a diagonal path from the sidewalk in front of Coastal Trading across the parking lot.

He wound his way along rows of parked cars in front of Maine Hardware, where an employee who noticed him was the first to call police at 11:11 a.m.

Beyond the rows of cars was the Subway. Baker approached the sandwich store’s side door.

Another 911 call came in, reporting that there was a drunken man in the Union Station shopping plaza who was screaming obscenities and waving around a rifle or shotgun.

A minute later, a woman told 911 that he was pointing the gun, and that there were people all around. “I’m freaking out,” she said.

At 11:13 a.m., another caller told police “he’s a mess,” and that he wasn’t sure whether the rifle was an air rifle, such as a BB gun, or a .22-caliber firearm, but the caller then reversed himself.

It was “definitely a BB gun.”

CONVERGENCE OF CRUISERS

At the police station on Middle Street, Sgt. Nicholas Goodman was nearly five hours into his shift when the police radio crackled to life. Trained in conflict de-escalation and a member of the department’s specialized tactical team, Goodman took command and raced the roughly 3 miles to the scene, telling his officers to set up a perimeter to contain the gunman. Don’t approach him, Goodman told his fellow officers.

As the police officers pointed their cruisers toward Congress Street and St. John Street, Union Station Plaza was bustling. There was snow piled high in the corners of the parking lot and the pavement was damp with runoff. People were washing clothes and buying cellphones and furniture and snow shovels. An early lunch crowd was arriving, and the State of Maine 8 Ball Championship tournament was getting started at Union Station Billiards.

Portland police Officer Kyle Andrew Knutson was the first to arrive at 11:15 a.m.. Goodman asked him over the radio: What kind of firearm did the man have?

“He’s got a long gun of some sort,” Knutson said.

At 11:16 a.m., a dispatcher told Goodman about the caller’s suggestion it was an air rifle, which uses only compressed air to fire a pellet, and is not typically lethal to humans.

“We’re not going to start guessing now,” Goodman replied, then signed off his radio as he pulled up, parking his cruiser across Congress Street behind the Key Bank building. His was among a total of 12 cruisers converging on the scene.

“He’s pumping it like a BB gun but …” Knutson said at 11:17 a.m. across the police radio.

Together the two officers peered around the corner, across Congress Street. They needed to cross the street and get closer, Goodman said. He did not want civilians between him and the threat, 100 yards away. Both men, armed with police-issued .223 carbine rifles, crossed the three-lane roadway and stood shoulder-to-shoulder behind a rusty pickup truck.

They were only 35 yards away now. It was 11:18 a.m. – seven minutes after the first 911 call and two minutes after Goodman parked his cruiser.

“Drop your firearm!” Goodman yelled to the man. “Drop your rifle!”

It’s possible Baker might not have heard him. He was drunk – at least three times the legal limit to drive – and from the surveillance tape outside the pawnshop, it appears he was still wearing at least one earbud.

Goodman saw Baker “engage in activity with the rifle which led him to believe that he was in a ‘search’ for a potential target,” according to the attorney general’s investigative report.

Baker turned to the crowd with the gun barrel held parallel to the ground, but then turned back and leaned the weapon against the wall of the building.

Goodman hoped that Baker was about to surrender, and he called out to warn him that if he picked the rifle back up, he’d be shot.

Knutson heard Goodman tell Baker, “I don’t want to shoot you,” or “Don’t make me shoot you.”

Baker pulled a half-full bottle of Colt 45 malt liquor from his jacket pocket, drank from it and picked up the rifle again. Someone in the crowd nearby said he heard a trigger click.

In the midst of this standoff, a woman, who has never been identified, walked past Baker and into the Subway.

Goodman told Knutson that they could not allow Baker to get into the sandwich shop.

Then Baker, with the rifle held at waist level and its barrel parallel to the ground, turned toward Goodman and Knutson, according to the investigative report. Someone in the crowd yelled that Baker was either pulling the trigger or that his weapon had jammed.

The 15-year police veteran squeezed the trigger.

The bullet struck Baker on the left side of his skull above the ear. He fell immediately to the ground, a pool of blood staining the asphalt around his head. Police cuffed him, and by 11:37 a.m. he arrived at Maine Medical Center’s trauma unit. At 11:56 a.m. he was pronounced dead.

2 MINUTES 35 SECONDS

In the days after his death, Black Lives Matter activists rallied to protest Baker’s killing. Baker was biracial, a light-skinned man with pale blue eyes. His mother and grandmother do not believe race factored into his death. What they question is the speed at which the scene in the shopping center unfolded, and why a greater effort was not made to de-escalate the situation.

Peggy Akers, the Preble Street volunteer who used to hug Baker when she saw him at the Nickelodeon, wrote a letter to Attorney General Janet Mills, questioning why the department’s mental health liaisons were not on the scene.

“Chance had been on PPD and their mental health liaisons’ radar for the entire year leading up to his death,” Akers wrote. “I can not stop thinking about how differently things could have gone if a mental health liaison had been dispatched with PPD that day.”

Last week Mills, who is making a gubernatorial bid, announced the formation of a task force to study deadly force by police officers. Mills cited an increase in police-involved shootings.

Goodman was on the scene a total of 2 minutes and 35 seconds before shooting Baker. He had used deadly force once before on the job, killing a Portland man named Albert Wayne Kittrell in 2008, after Kittrell fled a traffic stop and dragged Goodman on the side of his car for 280 feet.

Baker’s mother and grandmother came to Portland to handle the funeral arrangements, raising money from friends and family in Iowa. They stayed at the Econo Lodge near the airport. They met some of Baker’s friends. They stayed four days, and then they went home, although not with Chance’s body. They couldn’t afford that.

“We are poor people,” Terry Baker said.

Instead they had him cremated. “That was the only way we could bring him home,” she said. “To have to hold him on our laps, after being shot by the police and not understanding the reason for it.”

“Chance should be alive,” she added. “He should not be gone.”

Peggy Akers wishes she could have taken the kind boy from Iowa home with her and kept him safe there. But, Akers said, she frequently feels that way at Preble Street.

“You wish you could take them all home with you,” she said. “There are a lot of other Chances. I wish that wasn’t true.”

Mary Pols can be contacted at 791-6456 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: MaryPols

Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at:

[email protected]

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