WATERVILLE — A Troy man who reportedly sparked a massive police standoff in the heart of the city Monday night was upset, distraught and suicidal but didn’t intend to harm anyone else, according to the chief negotiator who brokered the peaceful surrender.

The eight-hour-long standoff unfolded as Gary Cross, 58, sat in and walked around his pickup truck parked at the Waterville Police Department parking lot, authorities said. Cross had a loaded .357-caliber revolver but agreed to unload the weapon before he eventually surrendered shortly after 2:30 a.m. Tuesday, police said.

Cross was having financial trouble and was embarrassed because he thought he was failing to provide for his family, Maine State Police negotiation team commander Sgt. Jason Madore said in an interview Tuesday afternoon.

“He had come to his wits’ end, decided he wanted to commit suicide,” Madore said. “Last night was the night that was his trigger. He needed help and he did the right thing by talking with negotiators and surrendering.”

The police standoff drew officers from multiple agencies across the region and shut down an area of nearby College Avenue for several hours Monday night and early Tuesday morning.

State police negotiators contacted Cross by cellphone and talked with him for nearly two hours before he finally agreed to surrender to protective custody. Negotiators were in a vehicle in the parking lot of the American Legion Hall, where the command center had been since the standoff began at 6:15 p.m. Monday.

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Maine State Police later took Cross to MaineGeneral Medical Center in Augusta, where he still was being held Tuesday afternoon after undergoing a physical and mental health evaluation.

“It ended well for us and it ended well for him,” Waterville police Chief Joseph Massey said.

Cross’ wife found a suicide note at their home Tuesday afternoon and called police, according to Department of Public Safety spokesman Steve McCausland. State troopers were searching for his truck for about an hour before putting out an all-points bulletin about the vehicle, Madore said.

According to Massey, by the time Waterville police received the call about Cross, he already was sitting in his truck parked in the Police Department’s public parking lot, which is on Colby Circle, a quarter-mile north of downtown Waterville off College Avenue and Front Street. The massive police response came following reports that Cross was reportedly suicidal and armed with a gun. Officers checked the front parking lot and saw Cross sitting in his pickup truck in the northwest corner of the lot.

Cross told negotiators he had come to Waterville because he wanted to get away from his home so that his family would not have to pass by the area where he intended to commit suicide, Madore said.

“For law enforcement, this particular situation is about getting the person help, resolving the high stress situation as safely as possible and getting them back to their families,” Madore said.

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Cross lives in a single-family home in Troy set off from a quiet residential road. The home overlooks a field and woodland, and on Tuesday there was a pickup truck with an attached plow and a recreational vehicle parked in the driveway.

A neighbor who did not want her name used said that she did not know Cross well. She said the neighbors mainly kept to themselves and she did not know about the standoff in Waterville and was surprised to hear Cross was involved.

CREATING A STANDOFF

Madore said Cross will not be charged with a criminal offense, but Waterville police are considering issuing a civil violation of creating a police standoff that would carry the penalty of paying restitution in connection with the cost of the incident. The civil violation is punishable by a fine, but it also allows police to seek restitution for the expense of the standoff.

Massey and Waterville Deputy Chief Charles Rumsey estimated the overall cost of the standoff in the “hundreds of thousands of dollars.” In an unprompted email Tuesday to the Morning Sentinel with the subject line “Unbelievable,” Aaron Turcotte, president of the Maine State Troopers Association, called that estimate “ridiculous.”

Rumsey stood by that estimate later Tuesday, further clarifying that it includes the value of the equipment, vehicles, personnel and other expenses used during the standoff and resulting safety perimeter that authorities established around the area. Even so, it’s likely the restitution request would be a fraction of that total cost value, he said.

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“We’ll eventually have to get an estimate of costs for each department,” Massey said.

At the scene Monday night and Tuesday morning were Waterville, Oakland, Fairfield and Winslow police, as well as Maine State Police, the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office and the Waterville and Fairfield fire departments. The command center in the American Legion parking lot included 30 or 40 vehicles. “The resources were immense,” Massey said.

He said the standoff was an inconvenience to the city, as police officers couldn’t enter or leave the police station, and it made it difficult to answer calls as cruisers were tied up in the back parking lot, “so we had officers on foot.”

Massey said such a situation endangers residents of the city because streets had to be shut down, making it difficult for emergency vehicles to get around. “It creates just a very dangerous situation that could end up very, very tragically,” he said.

Cross had been in the parking lot, most of the time in his pickup truck, since about 6:15 p.m. Monday. For the first five hours, police hadn’t been able to make contact with him, and Massey earlier in the night described the situation as a “wait and see.”

“They are talking to him and that’s obviously a good sign for us,” Massey said at a 12:15 a.m. Tuesday news conference. “For the first three or four hours we had no contact.”

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The man’s wife was also on the scene for most of the night, though it wasn’t clear if she’d made contact with him. She spent much of the cold night sitting with a passenger in a small white SUV in the American Legion parking lot and was sometimes visited by a state trooper.

A large portion of College Avenue and Front Street were blocked off by firetrucks most of Monday night and into Tuesday morning. About 1 a.m., the city’s Public Works Department was called in to put up barriers in the road.

The Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter, which is also on Colby Circle within sight of the police station, was locked down. Dunkin’ Donuts and Burger King on College Avenue, which were within the police perimeter, were evacuated as a precaution around 8 p.m. and didn’t reopen until 4 a.m. or so.

‘VERY LONG NIGHT’

The Maine State Police tactical team and crisis negotiators arrived on the scene about an hour after the first report.

The time it took to get Cross to surrender instead of killing himself was not unusual, Madore said. People who are in crisis like Cross have made a substantial step toward taking their own life, and it can be a lengthy process to convince them to do otherwise, he said.

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It “takes time to build a rapport with someone and really listen to why they are in crisis,” Madore said. “You listen to someone and you realize the crisis they are in and you can work toward a resolution.”

As the standoff went on, the shutdown of roads and businesses took a toll. College Avenue, which is busy U.S. Route 201, was blocked to traffic by a Fairfield firetruck at Ash Street to the north and a Waterville firetruck at Getchell Street to the south, a distance of about half a mile. Front Street, starting at about Union Street, was also blocked off. The street joins Colby Circle after another quarter-mile and is where the entrance drive to the police station is. The entrances to Railroad Square and Dunkin’ Donuts were blocked to traffic from Main Street. The roads were opened back up shortly after Cross was taken into custody.

The area where the standoff occurred is not near Colby College, which is in the northwest area of the city, or Thomas College, which is on the city’s southern edge.

When postal workers began to arrive for their shift at 2 a.m., police let them reach the post office from the side door off the American Legion parking lot on Front Street. But postal trucks were not allowed into the area to deliver mail to the post office. Once the area was opened, the trucks rushed in.

Earlier, Winslow and Waterville firefighters had to respond to an alarm at Huhtamaki, which is on College Avenue on the Fairfield-Waterville line about a mile north of the blocked roads. The firetrucks had to detour several blocks to get to the factory. The alarm turned out to not be a serious issue.

The area blocked off included the post office, Colby Circle, the police station, the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter and the Waterville District Court building, as well as businesses including Dunkin’ Donuts.

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State police tactical team members were positioned along the perimeter of the area when they arrived shortly after 7.

Around 1 a.m., a local caterer brought in food to feed the police and other emergency responders, who had been on the scene for several hours.

When the report first came in, Cross reportedly got out of his truck briefly and walked away. The focus of the standoff earlier had been on the Pan Am rail yard nearby, the area around the district court building on College Avenue and the police station. He got back into the truck shortly after that, but got out of the truck, stood by it, then got back in several times during the course of the night.

A police dispatcher who was due to report to work at 8 p.m. waited outside the blocked-off area with onlookers, unable to get to work. A woman who said she lived at the homeless shelter also was prohibited from going there. Meanwhile, those in the police station whose shifts were due to end hours earlier couldn’t leave and remained working.

Massey, at the 3:50 a.m. Tuesday news conference, commended all the officers and personnel who played a part and said the state police were “absolutely terrific.”

“The negotiators established that connection, established that rapport, established that respect and their understanding, and simply talked him out of it,” Massey said. “It’s just been a very long night and I’ve got to commend the officers. They were patient. They used a lot of restraint. They were obviously concerned for somebody’s welfare.”

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Rumsey on Tuesday described the response from local police and fire departments as “amazing.”

“Really, I think this sad incident is a great example of how well the citizens of central Maine are served by their emergency services,” Rumsey said. The different agencies have worked together and know one another, he added.

In the aftermath of an incident such as the standoff, it is reasonable that the department will conduct a review and determine if it needs to consider additional security measures, Rumsey said.

“I think by and large it was a well-built and well-planned facility,” Rumsey said of the police station, which opened in July 2013. “There is no way you can take into account every eventuality the world may throw at you.”

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @PeteL_McGuire


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