Maine State Police on the receiving end of scathing Facebook post from sheriff's deputy
"Radio silence." That's how one longtime sheriff's deputy described the way Maine State Police provided information to hundreds of law enforcement officers who assisted with the manhunt after the mass shootings in Lewiston last week. The comments were part of a scathing Facebook post that has since been taken down. His criticism is not universally shared and is, in fact, being disputed.
In the post, Sgt. Jon Guay, a 24-year veteran of the Androscoggin County Sheriff's Department does not hold back. "The upper echelons of the Maine State Police Major Crimes Unit and Command Staff are utter clowns," Guay wrote. "I wouldn't hire them to manage the morning rush at Dunkin Donuts much less an investigation of this size." Guay went on to say that law enforcement officers were quote "left idle" after Maine State Police assumed command and shared little about the direction of the investigation.
"So, I woke up Sunday morning, and I came across the Facebook post. I read it, let it sink in..." said Androscoggin County Sheriff Eric Samson. Samson said Sgt. Guay later called him, explained his frustration and said he had removed the post.
"Then I said, 'Okay.' And that was that," Samson said. "Obviously, I had a conversation with him that was between him and I. It's over. It's done. I'm not going to share an opinion one way or another. At some point, there'll be an after action review meeting and we'll learn by consensus what we did well and where could improve."
Just across the river from Lewiston, Auburn Police Chief Jason Moen said he and other law enforcement chiefs showed up at a Lewiston command center which was soon under the lead of state police for briefings several times that night and in the days that followed.
"You know, I was briefed every time I went into the command post. I had a conversation with Maine State Police Command staff. They brought me up to speed," Moen said. "There were some agency head briefings that were held where the state police told us everything they knew about the investigation and where they were at. I was able to update my folks on that, so the communication, I thought, actually flowed pretty well."
Moen said the hard part is when there is no information to give. In this case, he said, the suspect was not providing a trail to indicate he was on the run — using his cell phone, credit cards, vehicle, for example. So the focus became the area near where the car was found at the Miller Park Boat Launch in Lisbon Wednesday night. Moen said he was disappointed to learn about the critical Facebook post of state police and of a published report that suggested state police did not start tracking the suspect for 12 hours after that.
"From my observation, that's completely inaccurate," Moen said. "Within an hour of the incident happening, the suspect's photo had been published and within 90 minutes he had been identified and we were then putting a name to a face and a vehicle. And that information went out to all respondents very quickly. And so there was no waiting on 12 hours to begin tracking him, that was instantaneous. As soon as he was identified, people were up on him trying to track him."
A spokesperson for Lewiston police couldn't comment specifically on the allegation. But he said that police need a warrant to search a suspect's car. Without it, any evidence they find can be thrown out if the suspect is later tried in court. And getting a warrant can take time because it must be signed by a judge. Records released late Tuesday afternoon by the Maine Department of Public Safety show that a daytime search warrant was issued for the car on Thursday, Oct. 26. Androscoggin County Sheriff Eric Samson said he was part of a large team that arrived at the Lisbon scene.
"We surrounded the car. The TAC team showed up. they asked us to firm a perimeter so they could approach the car...and then we all took different position throughout Lisbon to monitor activity," he said.
Samson said there were concerns that the suspect could be in the car or the woods nearby, waiting to ambush them or that he had staged the car to explode. These were all possibilities. He says the TAC team approach the car with special equipment and his team moved out to expand the perimeter further.
"What decisions were made after that as far as tracking, I don't know, I wasn't involved," Samson said. "There was a helicopter above us the whole time. And that's about as far as I have for inside information."
Both Sheriff Samson and Chief Moen say they are proud of the response of all law enforcement, dispatchers and other first responders who sprang into action after the shootings and were determined not to give up until the suspect was found.
Late this afternoon, the Maine State Police issued a statement.
The agency says it was an "all hands on deck" response to take care of the injured, secure the crime scene and search for an individual who committed horrific crimes.
It says it followed best practices after the suspect had been identified and his vehicle located.
As in any critical incident, Maine State Police say there will be an after action review to identify lessons learned. For now, its focus is on the investigation and the support of victims and their families.
Patty Wight contributed to this report.