Suspect at large in homicide and robbery case, manhunt underway

by Peg Schreiner

Press briefing this morning. Courtesy of Central Maine.

This story was updated on April 28

Somerset County sheriff corporal Eugene Cole was killed early Wednesday morning in Norridgewock, 15 miles from campus. The suspect, John Williams of Madison, ME, remains at large.

Williams allegedly shot the sheriff’s corporal and then stole his marked police cruiser, and then drove to a Cumberland Farms store and committed theft. The police cruiser was found abandoned near Martin Stream Road in Norridgewock around 5 a.m.

The suspect was supposed to appear in court in Massachusetts Wednesday on gun-related charges, however never showed.

Police have alerted the public that Williams should be considered armed and dangerous. They have also offered a $20,000 award for any information regarding his whereabouts.

Dean of the College Karlene Burrell-McRae ’94 emailed the campus community at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, alerting students and faculty to the situation. Burrell-McRae urged the community to exercise caution, despite no indication that the suspect is headed to either Waterville or the College. The Dean subsequently sent out a similar email to students Wednesday night alerting them of administration’s decision to restrict campus building access in the evening hours.

As the manhunt continued through Thursday, both students and parents received the same information as they had the previous day, notifying them of the situation and indicating that the same safety precautions would be taken Thursday night. Such precautions were again taken Friday night, and will continue into Monday morning.

Suspect John Williams. Courtesy of Central Maine.

The Waterville community as a whole has responded in a similar manner to the shooting and subsequent manhunt. “We have not had an officer die in the line of duty die, at least in this area, in a long long time” Waterville Police Chief Joseph Massey said in a recent interview with the Echo, explaining that it served as a reminder of the dangers of his job. “I am always concerned about my officers, we are always constantly reminding ourselves to not become complacent, and to constantly be vigilent.”

Massey reiterated the importance of staying alert during this time, urging residents and students alike to “Take reasonable precautions” by locking all car and home doors and constantly remaining aware of one’s surroundings. And although Massey did not venture to predict how long conditions like this will remain, he reassured the Echo that “there are a number of agencies participating [in the manhunt],” including organizations at the local, statewide, and even Federal level.

Despite the dangerous conditions, communities across the state of Maine have joined together to mourn the death of Cpl. Cole. In Waterville, radio station 92 The Moose reported that both area Dairy Queens will be offering free medium shakes to any area law enforcement officers and on Monday April 30, will be donating have of their revenue to Cpl. Cole’s family.

This story will be updated as the situation develops.