A Richmond man who shot and killed himself earlier this month as he was about to be arrested at his home over allegations of stolen property suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from his four tours of duty with the Army in Iraq, according to his family.

The brother, the sister and the ex-wife of the late Jesse Melanson said he was a great father to his two children, that he was hardworking and generous, but also that he wasn’t the same person when he came home from Iraq.

Lisa Melanson said when she talked to her brother last month, he said the medication he took to try to control his PTSD was too strong and was making him sick, so he had stopped taking it. She said she urged him to go to VA Maine Healthcare System-Togus to adjust his medication. He told her he would.

“He told me when he’s not on his medication, he has thoughts of hurting people, or himself,” Lisa Melanson said of her brother Jesse, in an interview.

Jesse James Melanson, 33, of Richmond, was about to be arrested and charged Feb. 15 with receiving stolen property by the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office at his Alexander Reed Road home, according to state police, when he grabbed a handgun out of his truck and shot and killed himself.

Family members said stealing, or any criminal behavior, would be completely out of character for Jesse Melanson, and they said if he was involved in any illegal activity, his PTSD could have been a factor in that.

They said despite his struggles, he was a great father to his children, Presley, 1, and Gavin, 10. They said he did everything with Gavin, such as going all-terrain vehicle riding and doing other outdoor activities, and the pair were best friends.

Neither the two children nor his wife, Robin Bussiere Melanson, were home when police arrived there Feb. 15 with a search warrant seeking items police believe had been stolen.

As Melanson was about to be arrested that afternoon, he asked a Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office detective if he could go into his garage to get his garage door opener so he could use it to get back into his house after he posted bail, according to Richmond police Chief Scott MacMaster, who had gone to the house to assist Lincoln County detectives as they searched the residence.

Once in his garage, according to Steve McCausland, spokesman for Maine Department of Public Safety, Melanson went into his truck parked inside and got a handgun.

MacMaster, who was nearby, trying to get Melanson’s dog back into the house, then heard Lincoln County Detective Scott Hayden, who was with Melanson, struggling with Melanson in the truck, saying, “Stop, stop!” MacMaster rushed in and joined the struggle, trying to get the gun away from Melanson. MacMaster said when it became clear they were unable to get the weapon away from him because of the positions they were in, and unsure of what he intended to do with the gun, MacMaster and Hayden backed off and planned to call for backup.

“When it became apparent we couldn’t wrestle it away, because of the positioning of Mr. Melanson, both of us stepped off to set up a perimeter, and notify other officers what was going on,” MacMaster said. “We had to make a decision. We didn’t know his intent. Was the weapon going to be used on us? At that point we weren’t sure of anything.”

Melanson then shot himself in the head.

Lisa and Ervin Melanson said they don’t understand why police let their brother go into the garage before he was placed under arrest. Lisa Melanson said they should have said “no.” They said they had not yet talked to police about the incident, but they hope to do so.

MacMaster said that on both Feb. 15 and Feb. 14 — when an initial search warrant was acted upon by sheriff’s deputies and Melanson was also arrested, Melanson was completely cooperative and there had been indications he planned to bail himself out again on the 15th and return home, and no signs he might harm himself or anyone else.

“He asked to email his work to let them know he wouldn’t be in, he grabbed some personal items, he talked about talking to his attorney. … Every indicator he gave was he was just going to be a cooperative suspect, like he had been the day before, who was going to go and bail out and deal with what he had for charges,” MacMaster said.

Lincoln County Lt. Michael Murphy said he could not discuss the events leading up to Melanson shooting himself, as state police investigated that part of the incident.

He did say he thinks the officers involved in the incident handled it appropriately.

HIS SERVICE

Melanson’s funeral services, including an Army honors ceremony at the Maine Veterans Memorial Cemetery chapel on Mount Vernon Road in Augusta, were held Friday.

Melanson joined the Army right after graduating from Lisbon High School, signing up in 2001 with Beau Ramsey Beaulieu, who Ervin Melanson said had been Jesse’s best friend since kindergarten.

Beaulieu died in Iraq in May 2004 from wounds suffered in a mortar attack.

Ervin Melanson said Jesse Melanson gave his son Gavin the middle name of Beau, in his friend’s honor.

Melanson served four tours with the Army’s 10th Mountain Division Engineers during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He retired from the Army in 2008, on disability because of his PTSD, according to Ervin Melanson.

He wasn’t the same person after his service, his family said.

“He did a complete 360,” Lisa Melanson said of her brother. “When he came back, he was always angry.”

She said he went on medication and attended some therapy. He improved but still had good and bad days.

Dana McMahon, Melanson’s ex-wife and mother of his son Gavin, said his PTSD was a major reason their marriage fell apart after he returned from Iraq.

“He told me he’d seen so much, and he needed help, but they didn’t give him the help he needed,” McMahon said.

She said she wishes she could have done more to help him.

Lisa Melanson said, through tears, she wishes when he told her last month he had stopped taking his medication because it was making him sick that she had gone to his house and physically taken him to the veterans’ hospital to have his medication adjusted, even though he had said he would do so himself.

‘THEY SHOULDN’T HAVE’

She and Ervin Melanson also said they wish the sheriff’s office hadn’t allowed him to post bail on Feb. 14, the first time he was arrested.

“They released him on bail when they shouldn’t have,” Ervin Melanson said. “They were aware of his health and it went ignored.”

Both Murphy and MacMaster said they were not aware Melanson suffered from PTSD.

Murphy noted that suspects have a constitutional right to bail, especially for nonviolent crimes such as the theft-related charges with which Jesse and Ervin Melanson were charged. They each posted bail the night of Feb. 14.

Jesse Melanson worked at Bath Iron Works as a quality inspector, his family said.

He designed and built the immaculate-looking home he shared with his wife and two children.

Ervin Melanson said his brother worked hard, often working double or triple shifts. Ervin recently bought a fixer-upper home in Topsham, which he said his brother was going to help him renovate.

Jesse Melanson also did side jobs.

One such side job apparently resulted in the search warrants being issued for the homes of both Melanson brothers, and in them being arrested, both on burglary and theft charges, Feb. 14, according to Murphy.

Jesse Melanson had a side job in which he worked for a company that did inspections and checked the security of foreclosed houses, Murphy and Ervin Melanson said.

Murphy said Jesse Melanson took items from some of the homes, such as a washer and dryer and other household items. Ervin Melanson said when he and his brother were working on an inspection job at an East Boothbay home about a week before the search warrants were issued, they took a washing machine and small household items from the home. Neighbors to the property saw them, asked some questions and then called police on them. Ervin Melanson said he thought they had permission to take items from the home, but apparently they did not.

The pair left the home, but, Ervin Melanson said, Jesse Melanson later went to the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office because he knew police were looking for him.

Police found some of those allegedly stolen items in their Feb. 14 search of Jesse and Ervin Melanson’s homes, Murphy said. On Feb. 15, police at Jesse Melanson’s house recovered a motorboat, which had been reported stolen from Wiscasset.

Murphy said sheriff’s detectives saw the boat there Feb. 14 and determined later it had been reported stolen, so they obtained another search warrant and returned on the 15th. They seized the boat and were in the process of arresting Jesse Melanson when he shot and killed himself.

Neither MacMaster nor Murphy said their police agencies had any other criminal complaints involving Jesse Melanson.

The family members said they’re worried about Jesse Melanson’s children and said his parents are also taking his death hard.

They said Jesse Melanson thought his Army service was important, but he was selfless, and he didn’t brag about it. A man of few words, he also rarely talked about his PTSD, his sister said.

They want their brother to be remembered for the kind, caring, generous person they said they knew him to be.

“We just want people to remember the person he was before” battling PTSD, Lisa Melanson said. “He was so laid-back, so calm. He cared about other people more than himself. If he had $5 to his name, he’d give it to someone else.”

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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