Disturbing surveillance video shows a Portland, Maine man lashing out at workers inside a downtown deli, hurling homophobic slurs, knocking items off of the counter, and making threats – before being arrested outside the store.
Police say the man in the video is 37-year-old Jesse James Taylor of Portland. He was charged with criminal mischief, disorderly conduct, and a hate crime that is being reviewed by the Attorney General. Taylor has pleaded guilty to the disorderly conduct charge and was sentenced to five days in jail.
The owner of Sister’s Gourmet Deli posted the video online, hoping to shine a light on what she says is a common disturbance downtown.
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“We as a city are ignoring that we have a drug addiction, mental illness, and homelessness problem that we are just walking right by,” said deli owner Michaela McVetty.
Her employees said the man came into their store Saturday afternoon asking for drugs.
In the video, Taylor can be seen giving female staff the finger, then reaching down his pants. He tells the girls they are going to hell, repeatedly tells them to shut up while pointing his finger at them, and refuses to leave the store for several minutes. The workers stayed calm, while one of them called for police.
“It was scary, and those employees did an incredible job,” said Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck.
McVetty said it’s nothing to celebrate.
“They were calm because that’s normal to us,” she said. “That man coming in here did not shake them because it happens all the time.”
Other downtown business owners have complained to the city about similar incidents. City Manager Jon Jennings said several merchants have complained to him about aggressive panhandling, property damage, and threats to tourists.
The owner of Maria’s Restaurant, which is located near Portland’s homeless shelter, is trying to relocate his business. He says there has been an increase in aggressive and indecent behavior on the streets, and it’s scaring his customers.
“I want to feel safe, I want my girls to feel safe, and I want tourists to feel safe,” said McVetty. She is meeting with Portland’s Mayor Thursday to discuss these issues, and she is challenging city officials to do more to help.
“This is what happens when a city doesn’t have programs in place to deal with unstable people,” she wrote on the Sisters Gourmet Deli Facebook page. “This is what happens when a city doesn’t want to deal with it. …What will be the breaking point?”
Chief Sauschuck said he does have increased foot patrols in that area of the city. He said the department provides Crisis Intervention Training to all of its officers, and has a “pioneering” mental health liaison outreach program.
“There’s no question that there continues to be a lack of treatment opportunities,” Sauschuck said.