ROCKPORT — Could the street gang known as the Crips be using a house in the town’s quiet Rockville section to initiate new members?
That is what authorities suspect after finding evidence of street gang initiation rites and cult activity during the raid of a New Rockland Road home Wednesday evening. Besides the gang-related material, police also uncovered evidence of bomb making, illegal drug activity, stolen goods, stolen weapons, whips and other implements of torture.
Arrested on the premises was Scotch Hanning, 18, of Rockport and a 17-year-old girl who lived at the home with Hanning. The Route 17 home is being rented by Hanning’s father, Scott, who is presently serving a six-month sentence at the Lincoln County Jail in Wiscasset. The Hannings are from the Gardiner area but recently relocated to Rockport.
As a result of the raid, Scotch Hanning was charged with criminal use of explosives, aggravated trafficking in drugs and violation of conditions of release. Hanning was free on bail on two other charges at the time of his arrest Wednesday.
Hanning pleaded not guilty to all charges when he appeared before Rockland District Court Judge William Anderson on Friday. During the hearing, Knox County Assistant District Attorney Rick Morse described the items discovered during the raid as “absolutely shocking” and requested a high rate of bail based on the discoveries and Hanning’s extensive criminal record dating back to his days as a youth.
Judge Anderson apparently viewed the situation along the same lines and set Hanning’s bail at $50,000 with one surety or 50 percent cash on the drug and explosive charges and tacked on an additional $10,000 bail for Hanning’s alleged violations of earlier bail restrictions.
“This was absolutely shocking to the officers involved,” Morse said. “Perhaps the most shocking thing was that Mr. Hanning was manufacturing pipe bombs. We are trying to determine what the purpose of these bombs were.”
Besides finding a sophisticated marijuana growing operation, dozens of weapons and presumedly stolen power tools, investigators also were shocked by a room containing “demonic symbols, pentangles drawn in blood, whips, baseball bats and a bowling pin spiked with nails,” Morse said.
Residents of the Rockville section had been the victims of a number of recent burglaries and complained frequently about gunfire coming from the vicinity of Hanning’s home during the past few months. When reached Friday, one 25-year resident expressed relief that the police had raided the place.
“We’re all glad,” she said.
While acknowledging that his department had been “keeping an eye on the activities” at the Hanning residence for some time, Rockport Police Chief Mark Kelley said the case did not come together until “a snowy night in January.”
That was when Patrolman Jason Luce was dispatched to investigate a pickup that had skidded off the Rockville Street. There were no occupants in the truck but Luce took note of a knapsack that fit the same description of one stolen during a break a few weeks earlier.
Later that night Luce located Hanning and his 17-year-old girlfriend at the Penobscot Bay Medical Center where she was being treated for injuries received in an accident. Luce charged Hanning with operating while under the influence of alcohol, leaving the scene of a personal injury accident and receiving stolen property.
“He was very hostile and belligerent during the arrest,” Morse told Anderson in court. “He was assaultive to the officers.”
Although Rockport authorities said they had probable cause to search the Hanning residence, Kelley said they decided to review their information with other departments before taking action. After meeting with the Maine State Police, Rockland and Camden Police Departments and the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, they decided on a united effort.
“We knew of the gunshots from that house and also had information that a stolen derringer might be there,” Kelley said Friday. “It was decided that a highly trained team should make the entry because of the firearms.”
Five Rockport officers, four state troopers, two Knox County deputies and a Maine State Police Tactical Team converged on the home at 5:45 p.m. Wednesday. Once the tactical team entered and secured the building, the other officers searched the building and barn. Chief Kelley said he was “astounded” by the amount of power tools, weapons, bomb materials and literature found inside. He said state troopers working on the case informed him that Hanning was linked to members of Crips-affiliated groups in Central Maine. The Crips are a nationally known youth gang that began in the ghettos of Los Angeles and has bases throughout the country.
“This all came about because of our networking our information with other agencies,” Kelley said. “By moving it around to the other agencies, the unraveling began … I believed we have solved a number of our breaks as well as those in other areas.”