The sheriff’s corporal who was shot to death early Wednesday morning in Norridgewock had been involved just days earlier in arresting the girlfriend of the man now sought in his killing.

Cpl. Eugene Cole, 62, of the Somerset County Sheriff’s Department, was shot and killed early Wednesday on U.S. Route 2 in Norridgewock, marking the first Maine police officer killed in a shooting in nearly 30 years.

The shooting suspect, who remained at large and is considered by police to be “armed and extremely dangerous,” has been identified as John Williams, 29, of Madison.

A massive police manhunt has been underway for Williams since Wednesday morning, involving the FBI and some 200 law enforcement officials who have scoured a number of locations across central Maine. On Thursday, the FBI announced a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of Williams, while Somerset County Sheriff Dale Lancaster personally implored Williams to turn himself in.

Kristina A. Pomerleau, 32, of Norridgewock — who authorities on Thursday confirmed was in a relationship with Williams — was arrested locally Saturday on charges of unlawful furnishing of scheduled drugs, possession of scheduled drugs, operating after suspension and possession of a suspended license. She was booked at the Somerset County Jail in East Madison at 4:22 p.m. and remained there as of Thursday, according to jail records.

Pomerleau’s arrest came following a traffic stop Saturday at 5:13 p.m. on Skowhegan Road in Norridgewock, in which Cole is listed as a responding officer in a sheriff’s department police log. Other responding officers were Deputy Isaac Wacome and Detective Lt. Carl Gottardi.

A police affidavit detailing what happened with Pomerleau’s arrest was not available because a judge had impounded it Thursday morning, at the request of the district attorney’s office. Other documents in the case file that had not been impounded in court alleged Pomerleau had possessed cocaine and that the arresting officer was Wacome.

In a separate incident, Williams was arrested in Massachusetts last month on firearm and driving-related charges following a traffic stop, and was scheduled to appear Wednesday this week in a Massachusetts courtroom for a probable cause hearing, according to the Essex District Attorney’s Office. Pomerleau was a passenger in the vehicle during that traffic stop and was issued a summons for possession of Percocet.

Chris Shulenski, a friend of the suspected police-shooter, said Thursday that he saw Williams hours before the killing and that Williams was both upset about Pomerleau being in jail and his own imminent court hearing on the Massachusetts charges.

During a press conference Thursday evening, Lancaster refused to say whether Pomerleau was interviewed as part of the investigation into the police shooting, but he confirmed Pomerleau is in “a relationship” with Williams.

Williams was described as being 5-foot, 6-inches tall, weighing about 120 pounds, with brown hair and blue eyes. Police said anyone who sees Williams should call 911 immediately.

“At this time of this briefing, John Williams is still at large and still considered armed and dangerous,” Lancaster told reporters at a 5 p.m. news conference Thursday. “If John Williams is hearing this, I want you to turn yourself in — please surrender peacefully.”

Authorities told residents to keep their doors and cars locked, and said officers have been assigned to area schools.

Maine State Police Lt. Col. John Cote asked the public for help and stressed the safe return of Williams.

“He is the only one who can answer the questions we have,” Cote said.

Lancaster called Cole, a 13-year veteran of the department, an “outstanding employee, one of the finest.” Cole has a son, David, who is also employed as a deputy by the sheriff’s office.

SEARCH ENTERS 2ND DAY

Helicopters, armored vehicles and police cruisers were spotted around Somerset County on Thursday, as federal, state and local law enforcement poured into the region to look for Williams.

Authorities said Cole was shot between 1 and 2 a.m. and his body was found at 7:15 a.m. Wednesday at 16 Mercer St., which is also U.S. Route 2, in Norridgewock. It was unclear Wednesday under what circumstances Cole and Williams encountered each other during the early morning hours, and authorities declined to say any more, citing the ongoing investigation.

Lancaster said Wednesday that Williams stole Cole’s fully marked cruiser, then drove to the Cumberland Farms store, where he reportedly committed a theft. He then fled in Cole’s cruiser.

Cole’s cruiser was found abandoned shortly after 5 a.m. off Martin Stream Road in Norridgewock, police said, and they believe Williams then fled on foot.

A nationwide alert had been issued for Williams, and police did not know of any vehicle Williams might be using after allegedly abandoning the police cruiser.

Around 10 a.m. Thursday more than 20 police cruisers raced toward Fairfield in the area of Martin Stream Road — the apparent epicenter of Thursday’s search efforts. A major police presence could be seen on Bear Mountain Road, a dirt road off Martin Stream Road, that travels through a heavily wooded, swampy area. Some two dozen police vehicles were parked along Bear Mountain Road amid steady rainfall.

More police units arrived around noon, as the dirt road was blocked off with yellow crime scene tape. Assembled members of the media were told to move away from the road entrance. Around 12:20 p.m., an armored state police vehicle entered Bear Mountain Road, but shortly after 1 p.m. troopers dressed in camouflage could be seen climbing into vehicles and leaving the scene.

During a morning press conference in Norridgewock, Lancaster said officials continued to work overnight and into the morning, increasing patrols in the area and following up on leads.

“This was a senseless act against a committed public servant. Our hearts are very heavy for all law enforcement in this state,” Lancaster said. ” … I’m asking John Williams, personally, if you are listening to my words today, please turn yourself in.”

Some 175 to 200 officers from local, state and federal agencies are involved in the search effort to find Williams, the sheriff said.

“Even though this is a very active and comprehensive investigation, I want everyone to remember that Corporal Cole was an outstanding servant of this community and this county,” he said amid a steady rain outside the Norridgewock Grange Hall, next to the fire station that has served as a command post.

Several law enforcement agencies — including the Somerset Sheriff’s Office, FBI and Maine State Police Major Crimes Unit — converged Wednesday night outside a house on Jones Street in Madison, apparently to execute a search warrant. But authorities appeared to leave the location after several hours with no noticeable outcome or announcements in the case.

Cote, the state police lieutenant colonel, said during Thursday morning’s press conference that officials executed the warrant at Williams’ last known address in Madison, 16 Jones St., the prior night to gather more information and evidence. Cote asked that if anyone has had contact with Williams, including via text message or social media, to contact authorities.

He said police from New Hampshire and Massachusetts, along with officers from all over Maine, are in the area offering boots on the ground assistance and equipment needed in the massive manhunt.

Hank Shaw, special agent in charge of FBI Boston, said his agency, the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office and Maine State Police “are asking for the public’s assistance and offering a reward of up to $20,000 for information leading to the arrest of John Daniel Williams.”

Anyone with information on Williams’ whereabouts is asked to call state police at 207-624-7076 or electronically at tips.fbi.gov.

“Mr. Williams is a danger to the public,” Shaw said.

Police believe Williams is likely still in the area and they have no information suggesting he’s “gone mobile,” so the public should be cautious and keep vehicles locked, Cote said.

The FBI also issued a press release Thursday evening detailing the case against Williams and describing his many tattoos.

The FBI released this photo of John Williams’ tattoos. Williams, 29, is suspected of killing Cpl. Eugene Cole of the Somerset County Sheriff’s Department. FBI photo

Williams has at least eight tattoos. One of them has the words “SEVEN ELEVEN” — an apparent reference to his birthday on July 11 — on his chest below his collarbones and the abbreviation “est” in between his pectorals. The name “WILLIAMS” appears on his lower abdomen, above his navel. He has a half-sleeve tattoo on his left arm; the word “Semper” on his upper right arm; the word “Fidelis” on his upper left arm; and a small safety selector symbol on the back of his left hand.

Williams also has the words “Molon Labe” — a Greek expression of defiance meaning “come and take” that has been adopted by some guns rights advocates — on his right forearm.

“According to records checks, Williams does not have any military experience,” according to the FBI press release.

MANHUNT HITS HOME

In a video interview with News Center Maine on Thursday, Chris Shulenski of Madison said he dropped Williams, his friend, off in Norridgewock early Wednesday morning before the killing reportedly took place.

Shulenski told the TV station he feared for the worst for his friend, who had vowed not to go to prison for the charges in Massachusetts. Williams told Shulenski he was facing 10 years behind bars and didn’t know if he “could do the time,” said Shulenski, adding that Williams thought he was “probably going to be a fugitive.”

Shulenski said Williams “seemed a little bummed out,” including the fact that his girlfriend was in jail — an apparent reference to Pomerleau — “but nothing crazy.”

“At this point, I’m just worried about him,” Shulenski said. “I don’t feel like I’ll see him alive again, I really don’t. I want to say, ‘John, turn yourself in.’ But I know him, I know him pretty well and I don’t see it going like that.”

Area residents cruised Martin Stream Road on Thursday showing interest in what was taking place so near their homes.

Alexander Russell, who lives about 3 miles away in Oakland, said, “it’s nuts — this never happens around here.”

He said it’s upsetting to see a law enforcement officer shot and killed in the line of duty because his uncle is Randy Liberty, the former sheriff of Kennebec County and the current warden at the Maine State Prison.

“So it kind of hits home,” he said.

Russell said the Martin Stream Road area is rough country, with thick brush and wetlands.

“It’s rocky, it’s full of brush, a lot of pine trees, wet, cold,” Russell, 20, said from the driver’s seat of his black Chevy Silverado. “It’s wicked marshy. I’m kind of on edge, surprised.”

He said he and his friend drove by the Bear Mountain Road area “to check it out — everyone’s talking about it. A bunch of cop cars, you guys. It’s suspenseful — a waiting game.”

Russell said the most difficult part for someone on the run on a day like Thursday would be the rain and the chill, especially over night. Russell, who attended Lawrence High School in Fairfield, said he doesn’t know Williams, but had seen Cpl. Cole before, but never met him.

Russell said he and his neighbors are locking their doors at night, and he is keeping a gun handy, just in case.

“Last night I slept with a gun beside my bed,” he said. “It was sketchy. It was raining. You couldn’t hear nothing so who knows what’s going to happen.”

Another area resident, Armond Frappier, said he lives right across the road from Bear Mountain Road. He said it would be easy for someone to hide in those woods — they are so thick and dense.

A woman who lives up Bear Hill, where all the police were Thursday, said she had to get police permission to return to her home Thursday.

“I was home this morning. I left for work and came home. The police have been in and out of here since yesterday morning,” said Sarah Bolduc, driving a Jeep SUV.

Staff writer Rachel Ohm and Associated Press writer Marina Villeneuve contributed reporting.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

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