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Maine police hunt for man who shot and killed sheriff's deputy

Bangor Daily News

April 25. 2018 8:26PM


Surveillance photo of the suspect from the Cumberland Farms robbery on Wednesday morning in Norridgewock, Maine.

Dozens of law enforcement agencies scoured the area surrounding Norridgewock, Maine, Wednesday, in search of the 29-year-old man they believe shot and killed a Somerset County sheriff’s deputy during the early morning hours.

State and federal agencies embarked on a nationwide manhunt for John D. Williams of Madison, Maine, who is believed to have shot and killed Somerset County Sheriff’s Deputy Cpl. Eugene Cole, 62, sometime before 2 a.m.

Cole is the first Maine officer in nearly 30 years to be killed by gunfire while on duty.

Williams is described as 5 feet 6 inches tall, 120 pounds with brown hair and blue eyes. He is considered “armed and dangerous,” Somerset County Sheriff Dale Lancaster said.

The presence of so many officers from local state and federal law enforcement agencies has turned an otherwise quiet part of the state into a frenzy of activity and concern.

A command post was set up at the Norridgewock Fire Department station on Upper Main Street — what an officer with the U.S. Marshal’s office in Portland called “the nucleus of the cell” for manhunt operations.

Despite the heavy police presence, Cassie Allen, who awoke to the sound of sirens racing past her Waterville Road home at 3:30 a.m., said the idea of an armed killer on the loose left her unsettled.

“Today has been chaotic. The town and community are in a state of shock,” she said. “Usually in this town, a lot doesn’t happen here.”

The 34-year-old — who said that Cole was her neighbor two doors down on Waterville Road in Norridgewock — said she dreaded going home because she’s afraid to be alone with just her mother.

Allen said she’s also concerned for her family in Madison, where law enforcement officers have been posted outside Williams’ last known residence on Jones Street since Wednesday morning, where they remained through the afternoon, though they would not confirm whether Williams was inside.

Police were releasing few details about the shooting Wednesday, but Lancaster confirmed that Cole was allegedly shot by Williams before 2 a.m. Williams then stole Cole’s marked police cruiser, drove to the Cumberland Farms convenience store at the intersection of U.S. Route 2 and Mechanic Street in Norridgewock and robbed the store, before again fleeing in the cruiser, said Lancaster.

Cole’s abandoned cruiser was found just after 5 a.m. off Martin Stream Road, Lancaster said, adding that Williams is believed to have fled from there on foot. Armed police were stationed at the entrance of Martin Stream Road all day, searching only cars leaving the road, which turns from pavement to gravel as it heads away from Norridgewock.

Earlier in the day, just after 11 a.m., a Maine State Police evidence truck, led by other law enforcement vehicles, carried Cole’s body through downtown Norridgewock en route to the medical examiner’s office in Augusta. Lancaster said during a news conference that an autopsy will be conducted.

Cole worked for the department for 13 years. His son, David, is also a sheriff’s deputy in the department.

“We have lost an outstanding deputy today who has served with great distinction for the last 13 years,” Lancaster said. “He was one of the finest deputies you would want to meet.”

Williams had been scheduled to appear in a Massachusetts court Wednesday for an initial hearing in an illegal gun case that could lead to a sentence of more than 10 years in prison, according to a spokesman for the Essex County district attorney’s office and court documents.

Williams was arrested in Massachusetts last month and is facing a variety of charges including possessing a firearm without a license. He was arrested on March 22 and posted bail on March 31, according to state police and Carrie Kimball Monahan of the district attorney’s office.

In March, Massachusetts state police say they arrested Williams on Route 495 in Haverhill after finding his car in a ditch by the side of the road. Among other offenses, he was charged with illegally possessing a gun, ammunition and “a large capacity feeding device,” according to a police statement.

Williams was taken to the State Police Medford barracks and initially had his bail set at $10,000, but a judge later reduced it to $5,000, according to state police and Kimball Monahan of the district attorney’s office.

He faced a total of five criminal charges and one civil charge that could together result in a sentence of more than 13 years in prison, according to court documents.

A 32-year-old woman who was riding in Williams’ car on the night of his arrest was also charged with illegal possession of Percocet, an opioid painkiller, but not arrested, according to the police statement, which does not name her.

Williams’ criminal history in Maine begins in 2006, according to records from the Maine State Bureau of Identification. In that year, he was arrested and charged with theft by Fairfield police and later found guilty of the misdemeanor, serving two days in jail and paying $200 in restitution.

A year later, he was sentenced 17 days in jail and a year of probation on a felony burglary charge, according to the criminal background check.

The last Maine law enforcement officer to be shot and killed in the line of duty was Maine State Police Detective Giles Landry, in March 1989. Giles was shot in Leeds, according to the BDN archives.

Fryeburg Officer Nathan M. Desjardins was the last Maine law enforcement officer to die while on duty, in June 2017.

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