PORTLAND — Several juveniles and adults face charges following a melee at Franklin Arterial and Fox Street that began when police stopped and arrested a shoplifting suspect and an unruly crowd gathered.
Police responded to a report that a man had stolen two bottles of vodka at 7 p.m. Friday at the Hannaford on Forest Avenue.
Workers at the store provided a description of the suspect and the car he left in, and police pulled the car over at Franklin Arterial and Fox Street a couple of minutes later, police said.
As police were arresting Jimmy Odong, 19, of Portland and recovering the stolen merchandise, a group of about 15 to 30 people gathered, with about 10 of them becoming aggressive toward police, officers said.
A number of other officers were dispatched to the area, which is alongside the Kennedy Park housing development. Members of the gathering group, some of whom are Sudanese, like Odong, and some who are from other African countries, began calling the officers names, including "killers" and "murderers," in apparent reference to the police shooting of a Sudanese immigrant, David Okot, last month.
When police prepared to tow the car Odong had driven, some of the crowd jumped on the car to try to prevent it from being taken, police said.
Three juveniles eventually were arrested, two of them on charges of assault after they allegedly punched the officers, police said.
Police also charged Yannick Mulongo, 21, of Clark Street with unlawful interference with a law enforcement dog, after he allegedly taunted a police dog named Taz; and Sara Langoia, 18, of Anderson Street with obstructing government administration.
Police said they had to use pepper spray in making the arrests.
The shift commander reported that additional arrests were warranted, but officers opted not to arrest others so the confrontation would not escalate.
Police said the minors were referred to juvenile corrections authorities, who planned to release them to the custody of their parents.