Sheriff Dale Lancaster of the Somerset County Sheriff’s Department in Maine, sadly reports the death of Corporal Eugene Cole.
Cpl. Cole, 62, was shot and killed in the early morning hours when he made contact with an individual. Details of what precipitated Cole making contact with the suspect and what led to the shooting has not been disclosed.
However, it has been reported the suspect stole Cpl. Cole’s patrol vehicle after the shooting and robbed a local gas station/convenience store a short distance away. The suspect then abandoned the patrol vehicle several miles from the shooting and robbery.
As of this report the suspect remains at large and a nationwide manhunt is in progress.
The investigation of the shooting and robbery is being conducted by the Somerset County Sheriff’s Department with the assistance of the Maine State Police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U. S. Marshal’s Office.
“He was one of the finest deputies that you would want to meet,” Lancaster said of Cole at a news conference.
The suspect’s name and photograph have been released to the media with the hope of locating him. Authorities seek 29-year-old John Williams in the series of crimes. He was out on bond due to a weapons charge that originated in the State of Massachusetts.
“Many times we’re able to say that there is not an ongoing threat, but that’s not the case today,” State Police Lt. Col. John Cote said at a news conference. “There certainly is an ongoing public threat. He’s considered armed and dangerous.”
Williams is described as being 5-foot-6, 120 pounds and having blue eyes and brown hair in a ponytail, Lancaster said.
Williams was previously arrested in Massachusetts on March 22 on firearms violations, according to a police report. Carrie Kimball-Monahan, spokeswoman for the Essex District Attorney’s Office, told The Associated Press that Williams posted $5,000 bail and was supposed to return to court Wednesday for a hearing, reported Fox News.
Residents of the town of about 3,500 people were urged to be vigilant, as there are heavy woods in the area. Authorities had guns drawn outside of a home in Madison where the suspect lives, located about 8 miles from the scene of the shooting.
Still a large police presence on North Ave in #Skowhegan guarding this house. Still unclear if there is any connection to the search for John Williams. #MaineManhunt #LiveOnCBS13 pic.twitter.com/NvJEVD0LWh
— Dan Lampariello (@DanWGME) April 25, 2018
“We’re a little on edge. It’s unnerving knowing there’s a guy running around out there,” Tasha Raymond, who was home with her two children, told The Associated Press.
Somerset County Sheriff’s Cpl. Eugene Cole was remembered by friends and colleagues as a generous, affable man who was skilled at negotiating in tense situations, reported Bangor Daily News.
“For a guy that would go into a hostile situation and be as small a man as he was, he could talk down the giant that was standing there,” said Troy Bowden, fire chief for the town of Canaan, who knew Cole for more than 20 years. “He could disarm the whole situation if he had that chance to talk, to get the conversation going.”
“Anytime he could defuse a situation without having to use excessive force, that’s the way he would do things,” he said.
“I just couldn’t believe that it actually happened. His [face] has been right in my mind all morning, no matter what I’ve been doing,” Bowden said. “He was down to earth, just a decent human. He was that kind man who would talk to anybody, just a nice gentleman.”
Our deepest condolences go out to the family of fallen Deputy Sheriff Corporal Eugene Cole. If you live in Somerset County and the surrounding area, please cooperate with law enforcement and stay safe.
— Paul R. LePage (@Governor_LePage) April 25, 2018
Cole was a skilled guitarist who used to play in a band called Borderline Express, said Scott Bishop, who was at one point related to Cole by marriage.
The Boston Police Department offers our deepest condolences to the family, friends, and coworkers of Deputy Corporal Eugene Cole of Somerset County, Maine, who was killed in the line of duty. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.
— Boston Police Dept. (@bostonpolice) April 25, 2018
Dozens of law enforcement agencies scoured Norridgewock and the surrounding area Wednesday, in search of Williams.
State and federal agencies continued Thursday morning on a nationwide manhunt for the accused killer from Madison, Maine.
I am deeply saddened to learn Cpl. Eugene Cole was killed in the line of duty in Norridgewock this morning. Cpl. Cole served the citizens of Somerset County for 13 years with honor & distinction, & Maine will be eternally grateful for his brave actions to protect his community.
— Sen. Susan Collins (@SenatorCollins) April 25, 2018
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.
Flock of sirens passing the robbed Cumberland Farms station where the suspect at the cernter of a nationwide manhunt headed after shooting and killing a Somerset County Sheriff’s Deputy. pic.twitter.com/dgtfEHehe3
— Callie Ferguson (@calliecferguson) April 25, 2018
Corporal Cole served the Somerset County Sheriff’s Department for 13 years. He is survived by his son, David, who also is a Somerset County Sheriff’s deputy. The last officer in the state of Maine to die in the line of duty, due to gunfire was 29 years ago.
Corporal Eugene Cole is gone, but will never be forgotten.
EOW: Wednesday, April 25, 2018.
Update: Williams was captured four-days after the murder of Cpl. Cole. See this article for details: Manhunt Ends With Capture of Accused Cop Killer in Maine.