Twenty-one-year-old Saij Bergman was at Second Street Park last Monday afternoon chatting with an older homeless man when a pair of men unexpectedly attacked them. After Bergman separated them from the older man, one of them allegedly pushed Bergman to the ground before kicking and punching him in the head.
Two days later, David Spencer, 51, was pushing his shopping cart filled with personal belongings on the Bangor waterfront when some of the same men allegedly pushed his cart away before punching him in the face.
Now, both homeless men are concerned for their safety in the areas where they spend most of their time in the Queen City.
Spencer, a Bangor native who has been homeless for a couple weeks, said he has started carrying a knife and is considering moving away. Bergman, a Dover-Foxcroft native, does not have plans to leave Bangor, but he worries that he will be unsafe in the city, particularly now that he’s spoken out about the attacks.
“People around here already know what I look like, what I sound like and what I wear everyday,” Bergman said. “It’s pretty risky.”
Thousands of people had a firsthand view of the attacks on Bergman, Spencer and another man because video recordings of them were shared widely on Facebook before police announced they had charged three people. Interviews and newly released court records paint a picture of how the attacks happened and became a topic of conversation on social media.
Last week, Bangor police said they had charged three people with misdemeanor assault: Liam Geagan, 18, of Brewer; Benjamin Gilliland, 19, of Bangor; and a juvenile. This week, police said they charged another juvenile with assault as part of the ongoing investigation and they filed an additional charge against Geagan: a felony charge of aggravated assault.
Spread on social media
One of the videos that circulated on Facebook first appeared on the app Snapchat. That’s where Faith Vincent, 16, saw the video of Spencer’s assault and recorded it. She recognized Geagan in the video and messaged him to ask about it.
“He confirmed and then sent me various other videos of him jumping people as if he was proud,” Vincent said.
When she noticed another video of an assault involving Geagan on social media, she decided it was her responsibility to share the videos.
“At this point I knew something had to be done. It genuinely made me upset to see people like this,” she said. “This isn’t something new to this group of kids. Justice was served, and hopefully with the amount of publicity it got it will make them change into better people.”
Vincent posted the videos to her Facebook page on July 31 at 7:22 p.m., less than a half hour after Spencer was assaulted. Within a week, they collectively had recorded more than 64,000 views and been shared about 500 times.
According to an affidavit filed in court, the Bangor Police Department started receiving calls after the videos surfaced. Bangor police Lt. Tim Cotton addressed the assaults in a post and series of comments on the department’s Facebook page the following day.
“If you are a victim, or witness, to any crime, please make a report to the police. Then we can investigate,” he wrote as a reply to a Facebook comment. “I am dumbfounded by folks who video record, then share, in order to stir up the social media world, yet still don’t report what they have seen.”
Geagan remained in jail Tuesday with his bail set at $2,500 cash.
Geagan’s assigned lawyer, Peter Bos, did not respond to a request for comment. The 18-year-old is due in court Sept. 10, according to the Penobscot County District Attorney’s office.
Gilliland and the two juveniles were issued court summonses. Gilliland will appear in court on Sept. 18.
‘I didn’t even know Bangor was like this’
There was not much going on at Second Street Park last Monday afternoon, July 29, at about 1 p.m. Bergman and some others were sharing cigarettes and beer that an older homeless man offered them.
Bergman said he was chatting with that man when he saw a group of young men, including Geagan, approaching. The young men later told police that the older man had used an Egyptian slur before they started hitting him, according to the affidavit.
Bergman saw them push the man to the ground, kick him and punch him in the face. Even though he did not realize it at the time, the altercation was being recorded on video.
When he saw them walk away, Bergman helped the older man up and started leading him toward Second Street.
In the videos, Geagan and others can be seen running up to Bergman as he walks away, pushing him to the ground. The video then shows Geagan kicking Bergman in the face as he lies on the ground.
“When I got back up, they started a new video, and came at me again and jumped me with like three more people,” Bergman said.
On Aug. 1, Bergman recounted the assault to Michael Pina of the Bangor police department after the officer found him in Davenport Park, at the corner of Main and Cedar streets. He showed police the cuts near his right eye and scrapes on his left elbow.
Bergman has been living outside for a few weeks after being kicked out of the Bangor Area Homeless Shelter, and has feared for his safety since then. His fear has intensified since the attack.
“I didn’t even know Bangor was like this,” he said. “It’s getting to the point where you have to have a knife on you in case anyone tries to jump you in the middle of the night, but that’s also risky because if you end up doing something too badly, you could end up in prison for the rest of your life, for trying to save your own life. It’s scary.”
Attacked while repairing a bike
Around 7 p.m. on the evening of Wednesday, July 31, Spencer said that he had stopped to fix an unattended bicycle that was in a patch of trees on the Bangor waterfront when Geagan and Gilliland confronted him.
The pair accused Spencer of being a sex offender, then allegedly assaulted him. After Geagan took a swing at him, Gilliland came up behind the older man and punched him in the right side of his face, according to Pina’s affidavit.
Speaking with police after the incident, Gilliland said that Spencer had called Geagan a racial slur, according to Pina. Later, before Geagan was arrested, he told police that he thought Spencer had stolen a bicycle and that the older man was a pedophile.
“He went to go confront David about all of this and settle everything,” Pina said.
In an interview this week, Spencer said that he did not call Geagan a racial slur and that he was just being “a good Samaritan” when he stopped to fix the bike in the park. There’s no 51-year-old David Spencer on Maine’s sex offender registry.
“People should be worried about these kids,” Spencer said. “They just called me a child molester, said that I was on the list and all that happy horses—t.”
After the attack, Spencer said he was taken to Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center and stayed there for about five hours, but did not require treatment. He couldn’t see through his right eye for a couple days. It was still swollen and bruised this week, and he said he has double vision.
He is still living on the streets near the waterfront, but said he plans to leave the state soon.
Bergman said even though the widely shared videos and his interviews with media organizations have made him more recognizable to potentially dangerous people, he is glad that the assault received as much attention as it did.
“It’s not getting any better and nobody else is really trying to say anything,” he said. “Stuff like this has rarely ever been put out and it needs to be.”