John Williams, suspected of killing a policeman, was arrested early Saturday afternoon in a wooded area of Fairfield, ending a nationwide manhunt that lasted four days and involved some 200 officers from multiple jurisdictions.

Williams, who is accused of shooting Somerset County Sheriff’s Cpl. Eugene Cole fatally early Wednesday morning in Norridgewock, was taken into custody just after 12:30 p.m. in the area of 807 Norridgewock Road, also known as Route 139, in Fairfield.

Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, said simply in a statement at 12:55 p.m.: “Manhunt over.”

“Today is a very good day,” Somerset County Sheriff Dale Lancaster told reporters at 4 p.m. Saturday. “My first call was to the Cole family and I personally notified them of the arrest. They were relieved, thankful and very grateful. At this point the manhunt is done.

“Tonight the citizens of Somerset County can sleep well and know that a dangerous man has been taken off the streets.”

Around 12:45 p.m., Williams — shirtless, barefoot and with his chest and arm tattoos clearly visible — could be seen being taken out of a wooded area by police behind a red, cape-style house. Williams appeared exhausted, his bearded face appearing dirty or scraped from days on the run. He was given a yellow blanket to cover himself from the waist down. Then he was put into the back seat of an unmarked state police vehicle with detectives and driven away.

Geoffrey Reynolds, the owner of the home behind which Williams was arrested Saturday, walked slowly to the road as the dramatic events unfolded. He said he had to get back to this job and that he had come home for lunch Saturday and saw all the police activity.

He said police had been to the woods and fields behind his home a couple of times during the manhunt, including once earlier Saturday morning.

 

“They said they got him,” said Reynolds, 63. “They were here yesterday and checked everything out and those old buildings that are out there, camps and stuff, and said there was nobody around.”

Less than an hour earlier, police held a news conference in Norridgewock and said the day’s search efforts would continue in the area of Martin Stream Road in Norridgewock, where Williams was believed to have fled on foot after abandoning the police cruiser he stole after shooting Cole.

About 200 searchers from local, county, state and federal agencies have been looking for Williams, 29, in thick woods since Wednesday. Police said they have been slowly and methodically searching buildings and the heavy woods where Williams was to believed to have been hiding.

 

Speaking at a briefing Saturday at the Norridgewock Fire Station, police said they had received 13 calls from the public overnight about possible suspicious activity related to Williams’ whereabouts and hundreds of calls in response to the $20,000 reward offered by the FBI for information leading to Williams’ arrest.

Police also read a letter from Cole’s wife, urging Williams to turn himself in and assuring him he would be treated with dignity and respect — as her husband would have treated him — if he did so.

Police issued an emergency “signal 1000” over the radio about 12:35 p.m. Saturday, meaning that all other radio transmissions should stop. A minute or so later, a police officer declared over the radio that he was “10-46,” police code for having someone in custody.

“Is it the target?” another police officer asked over the air. “It is the target,” was the reply, meaning they had Williams, the fugitive, in custody.

Moments later police vehicles — their blue lights flashing — sped around the hard corner at Cumberland Farms in Norridgewock, coming from the command center near the state police barracks in Skowhegan, and raced up Route 139 — called Waterville Road in Norridgewock — going toward Waterville.

Williams was taken out the woods by state police detectives, their arms hooked under Williams’ armpits and on his biceps. Dozens of law enforcement personnel were at the scene, as road traffic was halted in both directions, 4 miles from the Norridgewock Cumberland Farms store that police said Williams tried to rob after he stole Cole’s cruiser early Wednesday morning.

The Maine Association of Police later tweeted that authorities had arrested Williams using Cpl. Eugene Cole’s own handcuffs.

“We did use Cpl. Cole’s handcuffs,” Lancaster said during a final briefing on the manhunt Saturday afternoon. “I thought that it was fitting, where he killed my deputy — Cpl. Gene Cole — and he was brought to justice using Cole’s handcuffs.”

Lt. John Cote, currently the second in command at state police and soon to be sworn in as colonel and chief of the Maine State Police, said Williams was found in an area known as Lost Brook, between Martin Stream Road and Route 139. He said Williams exerted “limited resistance.”

The seven-man capture team included game wardens, state police, Fairfield police and the FBI.

Cote would not say whether Williams was armed. He said charges will be brought through the Office of the Maine Attorney General and a court date will be scheduled soon for Williams’ initial appearance. He said Williams was taken to the Waterville Police Department for questioning after being checked medically by emergency medical services and then would be transferred to the state correctional center in Windham pending his first court appearance.

This photo taken by Maine State Police on Saturday, April 28, 2018, shows the moment when law enforcement apprehended John Williams, sought in the slaying of Somerset County Sheriff’s Cpl. Eugene Cole. This photo appeared on Reddit, and Maine State Police confirmed Saturday that they took the photo.

A widely circulated photograph of Williams’ head being raised from the ground was taken by the arrest team to confirm Williams’ identity as the man they had been looking for, Cote said, because Williams was not cooperating in having his picture taken.

“The suspect would not facilitate in displaying his face for that photograph to be taken so we had to facilitate that,” he said.

Lancaster said Cpl. Eugene Cole was part of the community he served and will be sorely missed.

“He was an outstanding officer. He really epitomized community policing before there was community policing,” Lancaster said of Cole. “Part of the outpour that we’ve had in this community is because of Gene’s interaction with the people here. He was part of this community. He was their deputy sheriff.”

Orrin Moody, 31, who lives near where Williams was apprehended, said he has three children and is glad the ordeal is over.

“I was just sitting there watching TV and seen all the cops and I said, ‘Whoa, what’s going on?’ and I looked out my window and saw everybody right across the street,” Moody said. “I was pretty surprised, you know. It’s kind of scary, very close to home. Holy cow! Actually finding out he was right there — I got little kids. Very scary. I think he deserves what’s coming. What he did was way wrong.”

Portland Press Press Herald staff writer Beth Quimby contributed reporting.

 

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

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