JAY — When a man armed with a shotgun burst into a building at Verso Paper’s Androscoggin Mill, employees tried to disarm him before he pulled out a handgun and threatened them Wednesday morning, according to a police affidavit.

The man, Francis G. Smith III, held the workers at bay and locked himself in an office with the mill manager, starting a nine-hour standoff that ended peacefully when Smith surrendered to state police, the affidavit and police stated.

Smith, 50, of Norridgewock, surrendered Wednesday without firing a shot about 6:30 p.m., after freeing the mill manager unharmed earlier in the day, police said. Police incorrectly reported his age and name Wednesday night.

The mill manager, Marc Connor, 43, was freed after Smith spoke by telephone for several hours with state police negotiators, who were at the scene along with a state police tactical team, police said.

Area police agencies rushed to the mill within minutes of the emergency call reporting the incident, which began around 9 a.m., a mill spokeswoman said.

Jay police Detective Richard E. Caton IV said in an affidavit that he overheard Smith telling the mill manager he was angry about losing his job at the mill. Smith also was heard saying he was upset about how other mill workers were treated, Caton stated in his affidavit supporting Smith’s arrest.

The mill spokeswoman, Cherilee Budrick, said that all the mill’s employees were “safe and out of harm’s way” after Smith had released Connor Wednesday afternoon.

Police evacuated the administrative building where the incident happened upon their arrival. Meanwhile, employees continued to work throughout Wednesday in other parts of the mill, which are isolated from the administrative building, Budrick said.

The mill has about 1,000 employees who work in shifts to keep the operation running 24 hours a day, she said, adding it’s unclear how many were working at any given time Wednesday.

Budrick would not discuss Smith’s employment at the mill, citing company policy. A current mill employee, who did not want to be identified because he was not authorized to speak on the situation, said Wednesday evening that Smith was fired several months ago.

Budrick said Thursday morning that operations at the mill continued to run, with grief counselors available at the site to meet with any employees.

Smith, of 162 Ward Hill Road, was taken Wednesday night to Franklin County Detention Center in Farmington and is being held on $10,000 cash bail, a jail official said Thursday afternoon.

He faces charges of kidnapping and terrorizing, with his initial court appearance set for Friday in Farmington District Court at 1 p.m., a court clerk said.

David Robinson — 861-9287

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