Sheriff To Suspect In Deputy's Killing: 'We Will Do Anything To Resolve This Situation Peacefully'

Apr 27, 2018

This story was updated at 11:42 a.m. ET.

The manhunt for the suspect in the fatal shooting of a Somerset County Deputy Sheriff, Cpl. Eugene Cole, continues into its third day.

At a press conference in Norridgewock Friday morning, Somerset County Sheriff Dale Lancaster said authorities, following up on leads, searched several locations in an effort to find the suspect in the killing, 29-year-old John Williams.  Uniformed patrols continue to saturate the community, Lancaster said.

John Williams
Credit Maine State Police

200 officers from various federal, state and local departments have been involved in a manhunt for Williams since Wednesday. Teams of officers are going door to door, and aircraft will continue searching, concentrating on a wooded area off Martin Stream Road, Lancaster said.

He then addressed Williams directly:  "If John Williams is listening to me:  We will do anything to resolve this situation peacefully. It has come to our attention during this investigation that he would like to reach out and speak to us. I would like him to understand we are here to listen."

A reporter asked Lancaster about reports that the shooting was connected to the arrest of Williams' girlfriend. "That’s part of the investigation," he said. "I apologize that I can’t give you that."

Maine State Police Lt. Col. John Cote said authorities have a solid understanding of William's movements before the shooting but are still seeking critically important information of his actions afterward.

Eugene Cole
Credit Somerset County Sheriff's Office

"Anything from a text message, any type of instant message through social media," Cote said. "Those types of people and those types of contacts right now are critically important to us as we try to locate him and take him into custody."

Friday authorities revealed that the FBI is now offering a $20,000 reward for information about Williams.  

"I appreciate the FBI's involvement, and hope that the reward offer will encourage someone to come forward and provide us the information that we need to apprehend John Williams," Lancaster said.

Williams is described as  5 foot, 6 inches tall, 120 pounds, and has brown hair and blue eyes. He has at least eight tattoos: including the words “SEVEN ELEVEN” below his collarbones, a half sleeve on his left arm, the word “Semper” on his upper right arm, the word “Fidelis” on his upper left arm, a small safety selector symbol on the back of his left hand and “Molon Labe” on his right forearm.

He's considered armed and dangerous.

In spite of all this, Norridgewock is trying to maintain a sense of normality. Schools are open again, with a law enforcement presence for added security as the search continues. Some residents say they are not worried because there are so many law enforcement officers looking for him. Others say they are nervous and scared because it's unclear where Williams is or what he might do.

Credit Patty Wight / Maine Public

There are many unanswered questions about the initial incident and its aftermath.

"It's unclear what led to the encounter between the suspect John Williams and Corporal Eugene Cole, who was shot and killed,” says Maine Public reporter Patty Wight. “It's unclear whether police think the suspect Williams is hiding in the woods on his own or if he is being helped by someone. He also committed theft at a Cumberland Farms. It's unclear what he may have stolen and if that's significant to the case."

Officials say Williams was failed to appear in court to face gun charges Wednesday, the day he allegedly killed the sheriff's deputy, stole his cruiser and robbed a convenience store.

On Thursday, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker asked the courts to investigate why Williams' bail was reduced after he was arrested in Haverhill on gun charges. 

“The tragedy of this is that an officer was shot and killed, and that is the worst part of this,” Baker says. “It’s important for the courts to look at the process information when it was made available, what was said and if there are things we need to do with laws. They need to tell us that and we will change them.”

Baker says that Bay State lawmakers have, in the past, toughened penalties for assaults against police.