A 71-year-old Camden man who led police on a chase and nearly hit a police officer with his vehicle has been struggling with brain cancer that likely contributed to the events, his family has said.

James Thomas was issued a summons Saturday and taken to a hospital for evaluation after leading police on a chase that ended in Blue Hill.

Thomas is well-known in the community, having served on the Pathways Committee and working as a social worker at the Maine State Prison.

During the chase, the car nearly struck a Belfast police officer. A Searsport police officer fired several rounds from his duty weapon at the tires of Thomas’ vehicle, disabling it, and police were able to get Thomas out of the vehicle.

Thomas was issued summonses for felony eluding an officer and misdemeanor reckless conduct, according to a news release from the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office.

The incident began at about 8 a.m. when the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office was notified that Knox County law enforcement personnel were searching for Thomas, who was believed to be experiencing a severe medical issue. A vehicle description was provided and deputies were told that a family member claimed Thomas was making irrational and threatening comments before driving away.

At 8:12 a.m., a Waldo County deputy located Thomas traveling north on Route 1 in Northport and tried to stop the vehicle. Thomas refused to stop and continued north on Route 1 into Belfast. Officers from the Belfast Police Department and the Sheriff’s Office were able to momentarily stop the vehicle on two occasions, but each time the driver made reckless maneuvers to evade the officers. In the second incident, the vehicle nearly struck a Belfast police officer.

The pursuit continued to Searsport, where a Searsport officer unsuccessfully attempted to deploy a tire deflation device. The pursuit continued into Hancock County, where a second tire deflation device was successfully deployed on the vehicle by Bucksport Police, but Thomas continued to drive the vehicle with a flat tire.

The pursuit continued into Blue Hill, where the Maine State Police assumed the primary pursuit vehicle role.

Law enforcement personnel were able to get the vehicle stopped momentarily in Blue Hill, but Thomas again attempted to elude officers. That is when the Searsport officer fired to disable the vehicle.

Thomas was diagnosed last summer with brain cancer and had surgery to remove a tumor, according to his daughter, Maria Thomas. She said that while the disease has affected his mental state, there was no way the family could have predicted this incident. She said she has learned since the incident from his doctor that the disease affects the part of his brain responsible for flight or fight. He was under doctor’s orders not to drive, which he had been following up until this incident, she said.

He worked at the Maine State Prison as a social worker for 15 years, and prior to that, worked as a private practice social worker.

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