A Norridgewock man was arrested after sparking a tense police standoff Wednesday night by allegedly suggesting he would commit “suicide by cop” and then threatening people with a loaded handgun at a local convenience store.

No one was injured during the incident and Donald L. Bessey, 66, ultimately was subdued by police with a stun gun and charged with criminal threatening with a firearm. He was taken to the Somerset County Jail in East Madison, where his arrest entry indicates that he also refused to sign a criminal summons.

The Somerset County Sheriff’s Office described the standoff as a “very scary situation” and “one of the more intense” such incidents authorities have encountered.

The incident began Wednesday at 8:24 p.m. when Bessey, who lives on Smithfield Road, called police dispatch, according to a news release Thursday morning from the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office. Bessey told a dispatcher that he wanted police to come to his house “because when they arrived he was going to shoot them” and “that he wanted law enforcement to then kill him,” and he then hung up, according to the release.

When a dispatcher called back, a woman who was a family member said Bessey had been drinking alcohol and was then outside the home with a handgun.

Somerset County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy James Ross said Thursday that after the initial call came in, police began staging down the road from Bessey’s home, trying to determine if it “was the result of another incident.” He said frequently in standoff situations, that other incident is usually a domestic disturbance.


Ross said in these situations, officers are “going in blind,” and it’s important for them to figure out what they’re facing. “We don’t want to escalate a situation. We want everyone to go home alive,” Ross said. “Sometimes you have to take your time, back off a bit and gather information you need.”

Authorities including Somerset County Sheriff’s Office deputies, Maine State Police and Fairfield police officers went to the area, and they set up a perimeter. Meanwhile, a state police negotiator got Bessey on the phone and they started talking, but “Bessey did not cooperate and ultimately terminated the call,” the release said.

Meanwhile, a 911 call was placed from the Cumberland Farms on 3 Waterville Road in Norridgewock, where a man — later identified as Bessey — had entered the store with a gun and was ordering customers out, saying police were looking for him. Bessey also grabbed a bottle of liquor and started drinking it, police said.

Ross said police received the call from Cumberland Farms around 9:40 p.m. At that time, they were unaware Bessey had left his home. He said police had been in contact with people in the home and had been led to believe Bessey was still there, but he “had apparently left in a vehicle.” Police then moved to the Cumberland Farms store.

A store clerk locked herself in a bathroom during the incident, calling her father and “stating she thought she was going to die,” according to the release.

Two Maine State Police officers, Sgt. Blaine Bronson and Trooper Bernie Campbell, were near the store and soon arrived there, convincing Bessey to come outside, according to the release. Bessey, armed with a loaded handgun, refused police commands to drop his gun and “continued to threaten to kill the officers either by shooting them or running them over in his truck,” according to the release.


Police cordoned off the store area, near the intersection of U.S. Route 2 and Route 139, and started evacuating some nearby homes.

As the state police troopers talked to Bessey, he started to walk around his truck toward police, and Cpl. Gene Cole of the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office saw a chance to get behind Bessey by using the vehicle as cover. Cole deployed his Taser stun gun on Bessey, subduing the man and ending the armed standoff, police said.

Ross, noting he was not at the scene that night, said the events at Cumberland Farms were over within 10 to 15 minutes.

Ross said Bessey was still at the jail Thursday morning but was being uncooperative and refusing to allow a booking photo to be taken. He said Bessey still had not given any reason for his threatening actions, but Ross said alcohol was involved.

“It worked out very, very well,” Ross said. “Everybody worked together extremely well and we had a good conclusion.”

Bessey’s bail has been set at $50,000 cash, and his initial court appearance is scheduled for Friday morning.

Colin Ellis — 861-9253


Twitter: @colinoellis

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