A Norridgewock man indicted on felony charges related to what officials called a “very scary” armed standoff with police in December has been found not guilty by a jury in Somerset County.

Donald L. Bessey, 67, of Smithfield Road, allegedly said he would commit suicide by cop and reportedly threatened people with a loaded handgun at the Norridgewock Cumberland Farms convenience store. He was charged by a grand jury in March with two counts of criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon, both Class C felonies punishable by up to five years in prison on each count.

But following a two-day trial last week, a jury found Bessey not guilty of those charges.

Bessey’s lawyer, Jacqueline Gomes of Westbrook, said Thursday the jury was convinced of Bessey’s innocence after viewing store video taken at the scene where Bessey was arrested and after listening to the audio recording of his 911 call to police. Gomes said Bessey did not threaten witnesses, but did have a gun in his pocket.

Ultimately, the state did not have the evidence to back up the criminal charges, Gomes said.

“This was about Mr. Bessey who was in a bad place mentally,” Gomes said by phone Thursday afternoon. “He was literally trying to commit suicide by cop, but he did everything he could to protect the people around him and the evidence showed that. He was lucky he wasn’t actually shot and was able to get some more help after this incident happened.”


Maeghan Maloney, district attorney for Somerset and Kennebec counties, said Thursday that she did not agree with the verdict.

“I am grateful to the jury for their time and attention,” Maloney said in an email to the Morning Sentinel. “While I disagree with the verdict, I hope Mr. Bessey will take this opportunity to do something kind and positive for his community. He terrified people with his actions. I hope he will now take steps to repair the past through doing something good.”

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

The incident began just after 8 p.m. when Bessey allegedly called police dispatch and said that he wanted police to come to his house, and when they arrived, he was going to shoot them and he wanted law enforcement to then kill him, the Sheriff’s Office said at the time. When a dispatcher called back, a woman who was a family member said Bessey had been drinking and was outside the home with a handgun.

Gomes said video and audio evidence presented at trial showed that Bessey did not display a weapon inside the store and actually told witnesses to leave the store so they wouldn’t get hurt and that he would not shoot them. She acknowledged that Bessey had been drinking, but was not “a sloppy, falling down drunk.”

Gomes said the jury was out only about an hour before returning with the not guilty verdict.


County deputies, Maine State Police and Fairfield police officers went to the area and set up a perimeter that night. Meanwhile, a state police negotiator got Bessey on the phone at his home and they started talking, but Bessey did not cooperate and ultimately hung up.

Bessey then allegedly left his home and headed to downtown Norridgewock, where a 911 call was placed from the Cumberland Farms store and 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. 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, police said.

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.

The whole incident was over in 10 or 15 minutes, police said at the time.


“I told him in the beginning that I didn’t think the state had the evidence to prove the case,” Gomes said. “I think the fact that I spent hours with the audio and video and tracked the timing of when things actually happened made sense to the jury.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367



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