'We Can Pause and Grieve For Our Friend:' Man Wanted In Shooting of Sheriff's Deputy Arrested

Apr 28, 2018

Updated 9:40 a.m.  Sunday

After a nearly four-day manhunt, police have captured John Williams, the suspect in the fatal shooting death of 62-year-old Somerset County Sheriff's Deputy, Cpl. Eugene Cole.

"It has come to a conclusion. We have arrested John Williams," said Somerset County Sheriff Dale Lancaster.

Police found the 29-year-old suspect on Saturday morning in a small, remote camp, in an area known as "Lost Brook" south of Norridgewock. He was shirtless and shoeless when he was found.

The capture has brought relief to the small town. The investigation has yet to answer some key questions about what led to the first shooting death of a Maine law enforcement officer in nearly 30 years.

John Williams was found at 12:43 p.m. on Saturday afternoon just outside of a small, remote camp on the west side of Route 139 south of Norridgewock. At a press conference Saturday evening, Somerset County Sheriff Dale Lancaster thanked the community for supporting the more than 200 officers who searched through the area's remote woods over the past four days.

"Words fail us as we try to express our gratitude," Lancaster said.

Police offered few details on the arrest. However, State Police Lt. Col. John Cote says that as officers scoured a Roughly 25-square mile area over the past few days, they found multiple indicators that they were looking in the right place.

"We found tracks that appeared to be fresh, and continued to confirm the fact that we had him contained in that area," Cote says.

Lancaster says that a seven-person team of officers found Williams on Saturday after being sent to clear the remote camp, and that Williams offered little resistance. Police did not provide details of how Williams survived in the woods or if he was armed.

Lancaster added that Williams was arrested using Cpl. Cole's handcuffs.

"I felt that it was fitting," Lancaster said, "where he killed my deputy, Cpl. Gene Cole. And he was brought to justice using Cole's handcuffs.”

After his arrest, Williams was sent to the Waterville Police Department for questioning. He was then taken to Maine State Prison, the state's maximum security prison, in Warren, where he is being held. Attorney General Janet Mills' office says that Williams will make his first court appearance early next week.

As the manhunt came to an end, questions still persist - about what circumstances led to the shooting, or about any potential motives. Lancaster says police will be questioning Williams over the next few days.

"We don't know, and it would be inappropriate to comment on it right now," Lancaster said.

Lancaster says that after Williams was arrested the first call went to Cole's family. "They were relieved, thankful and very grateful."

Some local residents celebrated by cheering along the town's sidewalks when the news of the capture broke. By the afternoon, a road sign leading into Norridgewock read in big, bright letters: “It’s over. Thank you, law officials.”

Cassie Allen, a neighbor of Cpl. Cole, says the community can finally take a breath and mourn Cole’s death.

"Finally, the Cole family, and the Somerset County Sheriff's Department, and this town, can get closure."

Two officers from the Sagadahoc County Police Department, watching over the casket of Eugene Cole at the Smart & Edwards Funeral Home in Skowhegan
Credit Robbie Feinberg / Maine Public

Still, some police officers from across the state will stay in Norridgewock for at least another week. Since Cole’s death, small teams of officers have been taking six-hour shifts, 24 hours a day, to watch over Cole's casket at a local funeral home.

Deputy Tim Davis, of the Knox County Sheriff's Office, was guarding the casket early on Saturday.

"This is my personal way of, sort of, telling Cpl. Cole, 'We got it from here,' " Davis says. " 'You did your time. You served the cause. We’ve got it.' "

Davis and other officers will keep watch until Cole’s funeral, which takes places Monday, May 7 at Bangor's Cross Insurance Center.

In the meantime, Lancaster said, "Now we can pause and grieve for our friend and colleague."

Reporting by Robbie Feinberg, Jennifer Mitchell and Susan Sharon.