Apr. 22—Two men have been charged with murdering Matthew Blanchard and injuring two others in a triple shooting in downtown Portland nearly nine years ago.
Zachary T. Phach, 31, and Khang Tran, 27, were indicted April 9 by a Cumberland County Grand Jury for shooting Blanchard and three of his relatives as they walked near Congress and India streets on July 11, 2012, Portland Police announced Thursday. Phach and Tran are charged with murder, aggravated attempted murder, elevated aggravated assault and criminal conspiracy.
Police said in 2012 that the violent shooting appeared to be a random attack, but newly released court records reveal investigators now believe the victims were targeted by Tran and Phach.
Tran was already in custody in the federal Moshannon Valley Correctional Center in Phillipsburg, Pennsylvania, for unrelated crimes. Phach was arrested in Modesto, California, on April 20. Both men face extradition proceedings to bring them back to Maine, according to police.
Blanchard, 24, was walking to a store to buy snacks with three of his brothers around 1 a.m. when Blanchard and two of his brothers were attacked and shot near the corner of Congress and India streets. Blanchard, who was wearing a cast on his foot and pushing himself on a bicycle, was shot in the chest and pronounced dead at Maine Medical Center. Joshua Hersom and John Howard Jr. were treated for injuries that were not life-threatening, police said at the time.
Security video reviewed by detectives after the shootings showed that many pedestrians and cars were in the area. Witnesses told police they saw two men running west on Congress Street after the shooting, but gave varying descriptions of the men.
According to an affidavit filed in court, police believe Phach shot Blanchard and the other men with a 9 mm firearm after Tran directed Phach to bring a gun to that area of Congress Street to settle a "beef" with Blanchard, Hersom, Howard and Corey Blanchard. Phach fired multiple rounds that injured Hersom and Howard and killed Blanchard, according to the affidavit.
There is no further description of the alleged motive and police would not provide any further information Thursday.
The indictment and arrest warrants in the case had been sealed because police and prosecutors thought there was a "significant possibility" Phach would flee if he found out that a warrant had been issued for his arrest, according to court records.
Phach was found guilty in 2014 of a misdemeanor charge of carrying a concealed weapon, according to criminal history records from the Maine State Bureau of Identification. Tran does not have a criminal history in Maine, according to records search. It was not immediately clear what charges he is incarcerated for at the federal prison in Pennsylvania.
Blanchard, who had been living in Gray, was staying in Portland at the time because he was despondent over the death of his girlfriend in a car accident that happened when Blanchard fell asleep while driving.
Family members said after his death that Blanchard was outgoing, funny, respected by people around him and often the life of the party. He worked odd jobs while taking classes at Southern Maine Community College to become a plumber and had three young children.
Detectives have been working on the case since 2012, but "the ability to bring this case to its next steps in the justice system" is largely because the department had fewer incident calls during the pandemic, said David Singer, a spokesman for the department. He did not explain how that helped the department identify suspects in this case.
"We are pleased for the Blanchard family and this community that the Grand Jury has indicted these two men for their role in Matthew's death," Chief Frank Clark said in a press release. "Investigating the death of another human being is a tremendous responsibility. I applaud the diligence of our detectives, as well as the collaboration with our law enforcement partners out of state, for the follow through on this case. The reduction in calls and crime reports that we've experienced since the start of the pandemic has allowed for the reallocation of time and investigative resources, ultimately aiding us in being able to hold these violent offenders accountable for their actions. Work on this and other unsolved cases will continue."
The department now has 13 unsolved homicides in its open case list.
Staff Writer Matt Byrne contributed to this report.
This article will be updated.