More than 3,000 law enforcement officers from around the state and nation turned out in Bangor Monday for a memorial to Somerset County Cpl. Eugene Cole, the deputy sheriff who was killed last month in Norridgewock.
Cole died in a confrontation with an armed man on April 25, under still-unclear circumstances. He was a 12-year veteran of the county sheriff’s department.
In a ceremony at the Cross Insurance Center that began with bagpipes and musical performances — by Cole’s brother Tom, as well as by the band Cole played lead guitar for, Borderline Express — Cole was lauded by Sheriff Dale Lancaster as an officer of “impeccable integrity” who could have served anywhere in the country, but chose to stay close to his roots.
“Gene worked every day to make Somerset County and Norridgewock a safer place to live,” he said, “and was dedicated to his profession. He was always fair. Gene was fair to his fellow deputies and to the citizens he served and protected. He was even fair to those he had to take enforcement action against.”
Cole owned and operated a television repair shop before training for law enforcement. Lancaster said Cole brought grit and determination to a law enforcement career that was begun relatively late in life.
“Gene was able to use those decades of life experiences prior to law enforcement to have a sense of empathy for those he dealt with on a daily basis,” he said. “Gene epitomized community policing. He always had people talking to him on patrol or calling him at his home. People trusted Gene. Gene would always listen. He wanted to keep his hometown safe.”
Cole’s son David served in the sheriff’s department with him. Deputy Sheriff David Cole recalled his father’s steady presence and his tendency to dispense advice.
Keep it simple, his father told him, and remember that people can’t stay mad at you as long as you tell the truth. It was a lesson Cole said he kept in mind when considering how to relate what he knew about the shooting to the family.
“‘Mom, the story doesn’t end. The story will continue on. You’ve reached the end of an amazing chapter, and just like any good book you can go back and you can think about your favorite parts. But the next chapter is already being written. And I know and Phil and Joe and Jill already know, and just by seeing the amount of people in this room you won’t have to write it alone.’ Corporal end of watch 4/25/18. Rest easy Dad. We’ve got the watch from here,” he said.
A Skowhegan native and an army veteran as well as a law enforcement officer, Cole was 61 when he died. He leaves behind his mother, his wife, two siblings, four children and numerous grandchildren.
Cole’s alleged killer will be tried in Cumberland County Court.