WATERVILLE — Police have arrested a man who allegedly assaulted another man with a hammer Thursday inside a Union Street apartment over a drug dispute, drawing a large police response and shutting the street down for an hour.

The incident is being investigated as drug-related, according to police Chief Joseph Massey.

“We suspect it’s over drugs,” Massey said Friday morning. “The officers did a great job, and the detectives did a great job following up.”

Zachary S. Larrabee, 31, of 19 College Ave., was charged with aggravated assault, a Class B felony, and criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon, a Class C felony, around 3:45 p.m. Thursday and taken to Kennebec County jail in Augusta, according to Massey. Police arrested Larrabee after finding him at his apartment on College Avenue, Massey said.

Larrabee on Thursday reportedly went into Apt. 1 at 11 Union St., a seven-unit apartment building, and struck a man there on the head with a hammer. Initially, police believed the man was assaulted with a handgun, but Massey said Friday that it was probably a hammer used in the assault and Larrabee also was carrying an Airsoft handgun powered by Co2, or compressed air in the cartridge that propels a pellet. Such guns, he said, can be dangerous and cause injury.

“It was quickly resolved and solved and we’ve recovered the weapon and even though it was a Co2 air gun, you’d never know it was not real,” Massey said. “It looks exactly like a real gun. Larrabee even went so far as to put gold cellophane wrapper in the cylinder of the gun to make it look like there were actually bullets in the cylinder.”

The alleged victim was taken to a hospital and treated for a slight gash by his left ear and a bump on his head from the attack and is OK, he said.

Massey said there will not be any other charges as a result of the assault, but police continued to investigate “the drug angle of it,” Massey said Friday.

A police affidavit written by Detective Damon Lefferts includes statements from witnesses saying that Larrabee wanted to buy cocaine and gave about $100 to someone else to buy the drugs. One witness told police the purchased cocaine was of such high potency that it caused the seller to vomit, so the alleged victim reportedly diluted the cocaine with baking soda.

Larrabee allegedly tasted the cocaine and said “it was off,” one witness said, and he drove around Fairfield and Augusta looking to confront the drug seller, according to the affidavit. By Larrabee’s telling, it was the alleged victim who had suggested to Larrabee that the drug seller had “ripped him off” with diluted drugs. A woman later told Larrabee that the alleged victim had been the one who diluted the cocaine. Larrabee told police that he became angered when she told him that.

Larrabee then reportedly assaulted the victim in the apartment.

The girlfriend of the alleged victim told police that the two of them arrived at the Union Street apartment Thursday morning and Larrabee was already there waiting with a hammer in one hand and a gun in the other. Larrabee allegedly put the gun to the alleged victim’s head several times, and at his own head, sometimes crying, yelling and saying he was “broke and skitzo,” the witness told police.

When interviewed by police, Larrabee denied assaulting the man and instead said he had pushed the man, who hit his head on a table.

However, “multiple witnesses saw Zach (Larrabee) was armed with a hammer and a gun when he confronted” the alleged victim and they saw the attack happen, detective Lefferts wrote.

Massey said Friday that while Larrabee admitted to going to the apartment to buy some drugs and had a hammer at one point, Larrabee said he never hit anyone. He also denied having a gun, according to Massey.

SUSPECT AT LARGE

After police got a call at 10:20 a.m. Thursday about the assault, police officers — many armed with long rifles — went to Union Street and blocked the road off for about an hour to search for the attacker, who wasn’t in the building when they arrived. Police had released a radio alert to be on the lookout for a white male wearing a red bandanna and black T-shirt and reportedly armed with a hammer and a gun.

Union Street is a short street connecting Front Street with College Avenue at Central Fire Station, which is in the heart of downtown Waterville.

Massey said Friday that once police were able to identify who the alleged attacker was, they started putting out feelers in the community and watching Larrabee’s College Avenue apartment.

“At some point, he actually called the station and said he knew we were looking for him,” Massey said of Larrabee. “We suspected he had gone into the woods along the riverbank.”

Larrabee told police he would come to the station voluntarily but he would not say where he was, according to Massey. Meanwhile, he returned to his apartment and tried to climb in a window because he had dropped his keys at 11 Union Street, Massey said. Police confronted Larrabee.

“He was not cooperative,” Massey said. “He wouldn’t tell us much. He was denying being involved.”

While police were questioning Larrabee, other officers went back to 11 Union St. There, they searched a trash can at the rear entrance hallway and found a “large black and blue hammer and what appeared to be a very large revolver,” which was later determined to be an Airsoft handgun, according to the affidavit.

According to the police affidavit, officers brought those items back to the police station and showed them to Larrabee, who gave a detective the middle finger and said of the gun, “oh that fake thing?”

PAST PROBLEMS

Massey said police were familiar with Larrabee from previous incidents.

“We’ve dealt with him going back to 2006 for a number of issues — disorderly conduct, theft, motor vehicle violations,” he said. “Other times, he’s been a victim and witness in a number of different incidents.”

Residents in the area said police often go to 11 Union St., and Deputy police Chief Bill Bonney said Thursday that officers have responded there nine times since May, once for a report of a man ingesting drugs in the parking lot. However, police at the time did not find him there and were unable to corroborate the claim, according to Bonney.

“There has been some drug activity associated with that address,” he said Thursday. “Whether or not it’s related to the folks in today’s incident is under investigation.”

Meanwhile, Massey spoke emphatically Friday about how important it is that members of the public not interject in situations like the one that occurred on Union Street Thursday.

One man who lives three doors down from 11 Union St. armed himself with an AR-15 rifle Thursday morning when he saw police outside. Police told him he should go back inside, as officers could mistake him for the attacker whom they were told was carrying a gun.

Massey said when police arrived on the scene, there were workers paving the street, bystanders in the street and on the sidewalk, and it was dangerous for the neighbor to load a rifle and come outside.

The result could have been tragic, according to Massey.

“They need to think before they interject themselves into a scene like this one with a firearm,” he said. “I’m not saying people don’t have the right to protect themselves, but if they’re not in immediate danger, don’t interject.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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