Police-shooting suspect John Williams was acting paranoid and was carrying a backpack, two duffel bags and a bulletproof vest, according to a friend, when the friend he dropped him off early Wednesday morning outside a house on Mercer Road.

“What made me nervous was — and I didn’t notice until he got out of the car — was he had a bulletproof vest,” Chris Shulenski, of Skowhegan, said in an interview Friday. “I said, ‘John, don’t do nothing crazy,’ and gave him a hug. He wasn’t talking about killing anybody or no problems with the cops. He was talking about maybe going and robbing a dealer to get his girlfriend out of jail. I really just thought it was talk.”

Authorities on Friday again implored Williams to surrender peacefully, with the county sheriff saying they’ve learned that he might want to communicate with police.

“We will do anything to resolve this situation peacefully,” Sheriff Dale Lancaster said during a Friday morning news conference. “It has come to our attention during this investigation that he might want to reach out and speak to us. I would like him to understand we are here. We are willing to listen. Please, reach out, and let’s start that communication.”

Lancaster also announced that a service for Cpl. Eugene Cole will be held Monday, May 7, at the Cross Insurance Center, at 515 Main St. in Bangor, with Chaplain Kevin Brooks officiating. “It is conceivable that hundreds of police officers will be there from all across the country, as well as Maine and the citizens of Somerset County,” Lancaster said.

State police Lt. Col. John Cote said authorities now have a “good handle” on Williams’ activities in the 24-hour period before he allegedly shot and killed Cole early Wednesday morning, but said what investigators are lacking is information and interactions anyone had with Williams after 2:30 a.m.

Cote asked anyone who’s had contact with Williams, including via text message or on social media, to contact police immediately.

In the Friday interview, Shulenski said he got a phone call Tuesday morning from Williams, who is suspected of killing Cpl. Eugene Cole, of the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office. The two have known each other for about a year through their jobs at Smith Mountain Investments in Anson.

“I hadn’t heard from him in quite some time,” said Shulenski, 31. “We had a conversation and I asked him how he was doing. He said he was in a little bit of trouble, that he had court coming up the next day and he wasn’t sure if he was going to go.”

Williams, who was scheduled to appear Wednesday in court in Massachusetts, instead gave Shulenski a call later Tuesday night, around midnight or 1 a.m., asking for a ride to a house on Mercer Road in Norridgewock.

Sometime between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m., authorities said, Williams shot and killed Cole, stole his police cruiser and drove it to a Cumberland Farms convenience store, which he robbed.

Shulenski said he picked Williams up from the Indian Ridge apartments in Skowhegan. Williams had the duffel bags, backpack and vest with him.

“He looked like he was just hopping around and didn’t have a place to stay,” Shulenski said. “It wasn’t a lot of stuff. I probably could have carried it all on me, no problem.”

On the ride to Norridgewock, Shulenski said his friend was acting paranoid and nervous. As they came into town, they saw a police car at Cumberland Farms.

Shulenski said Williams ducked down in the car. He asked him if he was in trouble and his friend said, “No, but I will be tomorrow when I miss court.”

“I figured he was going to do something dumb like rob a store,” Shulenski said.

Cole, 62, was shot and killed early Wednesday on U.S. Route 2 in Norridgewock, becoming the first Maine police officer killed in a shooting in nearly 30 years. He was a 13-year veteran of the department.

Williams, 29, of Madison, remains at large and is considered by police to be “armed and extremely dangerous.”

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

The FBI has announced a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of Williams.

Throughout Friday morning and afternoon, the manhunt once again centered on a wooded area off Martin Stream Road and Bear Mountain Road in Fairfield and Norridgewock. Armed officers could be seen patrolling an old railroad track off the road as a helicopter hovered overhead.

Later Friday afternoon, Gov. Paul LePage announced he had issued an emergency proclamation that suspends all hunting, including the start of turkey season, in the portions of Norridgewock, Skowhegan and Fairfield where the manhunt is still underway.

“I am using my executive authority to ensure the safety of the public and our law enforcement officers,” LePage said in a statement. “We are heartbroken yet determined to find the fugitive and bring him to justice as swiftly as possible. I thank our law enforcement officers and those from the federal government and surrounding states for their hard work in difficult conditions over the past several days.”

LePage said the proclamation suspends all hunting until further notice, including youth wild-turkey hunting day on Saturday and regular wild-turkey season, which begins Monday. The LePage administration posted a map online showing the defined areas where hunting is suspended in portions of Norridgewock, Skowhegan and Fairfield.

‘OVER PARANOIA’

Authorities on Thursday confirmed that Kristina A. Pomerleau, 32, of Norridgewock, was in a relationship with Williams.

Williams was arrested in Massachusetts last month on firearm and driving-related charges during a traffic stop, and she had been 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.

Then, Pomerleau 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 4:22 p.m. at the Somerset County Jail in East Madison and remained there as of Friday, according to jail records.

Pomerleau’s arrest came during a traffic stop at 5:13 p.m. April 21 on Skowhegan Road in Norridgewock, in which Cole is listed as a responding officer in a sheriff’s office 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 unavailable because a judge impounded it Thursday morning at the request of the Somerset County 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.

The Morning Sentinel on Thursday appealed the impounding of the document, but a judge on Friday decided to keep the document sealed from public view.

Shulenski, though, said he doesn’t think Pomerleau’s recent arrest had anything to do with what Williams allegedly did.

“The whole story that’s going around about he shot (Cole) because of the arrest of his girlfriend, I don’t believe that at all,” Shulenski said. “I think it was over paranoia. When that cop drove by, he was really worried. He didn’t even want me to leave the driveway.”

After he left, Shulenski said, he didn’t remember whether Williams entered the house or was putting his stuff into an SUV in the driveway. It was the last time he saw his friend before waking up to police outside his door Wednesday morning wanting to question him about Cole’s death.

“I’d tell him, ‘I’m sorry about all this, and I don’t know what’s going in your life that made you do it,'” Shulenski said. “What would you say to a friend? I just don’t know. I’d try to talk him into turning himself in, but I know John. He didn’t want to go do 10 years. He just took a man’s life. He knows what he’s facing. How can it end? There’s no happy ending.”

‘A HORRIBLE THING’

Robert Wilbur, who has been married to Williams’ mother, now Marjorie Wilbur, for 12 years, said in an interview Friday that he last saw Williams about three weeks ago, during the first week of April.

Marjorie Wilbur and her son got along with each other, but Robert said he did not know his wife’s son well and didn’t like to pry into the young man’s life.

“He was never on bad terms with her,” Robert Wilbur said. “He’s come visit. Sometimes he’d have a meal.”

But he acknowledged that Williams had problems with drugs.

“I do know when people are on drugs, they turn into completely different people,” he said.

When news broke of Cole’s death and the search for Williams, the Wilburs went to police to notify them of their connection to Williams. Wilbur declined to discuss what he and his wife talked about with police.

“They said to keep things under my hat, that talking about ’em won’t be any better,” he said. “They told us when they found out something, they’d let us know.”

Cole’s death and the manhunt have been upsetting, to say the least, Wilbur said.

“It’s a horrible thing,” Wilbur said. “The sooner it’s over, the better. It isn’t something I relish talking about.”

Meanwhile, as the manhunt for Williams entered its third day Friday, several area schools remained on heightened alert by locking in students while school is in session.

That’s the case for School Administrative District 54, which serves the Skowhegan area, including Norridgewock, where Williams allegedly shot and killed Cole.

Brent Colbry, superintendent of SAD 54 schools, said in a notice that schools would remain under the same lock-in conditions of the previous two days as a precaution.

“We will again have administrators on site at each building and will be in communication with law enforcement throughout the day,” Colbry wrote.

During Friday morning’s news conference, Lancaster said authorities set up roadblocks overnight and distributed more than 800 reward posters. Authorities searched locations, responded to eight calls that were processed through incident command center and “saturated” uniform patrols.

He said the manhunt on Friday would involve following up on more leads, deploying teams of officers door to door and concentrating search efforts on a wooded area off Martin Stream Road.

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

The FBI has also described at least eight tattoos on Williams. One of them has the words “SEVEN ELEVEN” — an apparent reference to his birthday, July 11 — on his chest below his collarbones; and the abbreviation “est” 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.

 

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