A wrongful death lawsuit filed against a Portland police officer who shot and killed a man five years ago will go forward after a federal judge denied the officer’s motion for a ruling in his favor.
U.S. District Judge John Woodcock ruled Friday that there are facts in dispute in the case that must be decided by a jury, including whether Chance Baker pointed a gun at officers or bystanders or didn’t.
Baker, 22, was shot by then-Sgt. Nicholas Goodman on the sidewalk outside a Subway sandwich shop on St. John Street in Portland while holding an air rifle pellet gun Feb. 18, 2017. Baker was living on the streets of Portland after he was fired from part-time jobs and forced to leave his home. He came to Maine from Iowa as a teenager in 2012.
The Maine attorney general’s office, charged with investigating the use of deadly force by police, found in March 2018 that Goodman was justified in using deadly force because he reasonably believed that Baker posed a deadly threat.
Baker’s mother Shantel L. Baker and grandmother Terry R. Baker, both of Glenwood, Iowa, sued Goodman and the owner of Coastal Trading and Pawn in Cumberland County Superior Court in Portland in 2019. The case was moved to U.S. District Court by Goodman’s attorney.
The Bakers’ attorney, Hunter Tzovarras of Bangor, alleged in the complaint that Goodman violated Chance Baker’s constitutional rights by using excessive force and caused him conscious pain and suffering before he died at Maine Medical Center.
The pawn shop was dismissed from the case in February 2020, according to court documents. Goodman filed his motion for summary judgment in July 2021 arguing that as a municipal employee he could not be sued unless it could be shown that his actions were unreasonable under the circumstances.
In his ruling, Woodcock said that Goodman was not entitled to qualified immunity because “there are genuine issues of material fact as to the reasonableness of his actions.”
The judge tentatively set a trial for April in federal court in Portland.
Attorneys on both sides did not immediately return requests for comments.