It was nearly 2 a.m. on April 25, 2018, when Chris Williams got a phone call.

John D. Williams was frantic on the other end of the call. The two friends, who are not related, had spent most of the day smoking crack together, and John Williams had left their friend’s apartment an hour or so before.

In the background of the call, Chris Williams could hear beeps, a cellphone ringing and another sound that seemed like a police scanner. Soon he would realize those sounds came from the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office vehicle his friend had just stolen.

“He told me that he shot Gene,” Chris Williams said.

Chris Williams described their conversations about the fatal shooting of Cpl. Eugene Cole on Tuesday in the Cumberland County Courthouse in Portland. He was the first witness called on the second day of John Williams’ trial on a murder charge stemming from the sheriff deputy’s killing.

John Williams, 30, has pleaded not guilty. Cole, 61, was the first Maine police officer fatally shot in the line of duty in three decades. John Williams fled the scene in Norridgewock but was arrested on the fourth day of the sweeping search.

The trial began Monday. The testimony so far has pieced together a timeline of events leading up to the shooting, including a traffic stop where John Williams encountered Cole on April 21, 2018.

Cpl. Eugene Cole

Cole and Deputy Isaac Wacome pulled over Kristina Pomerleau, who was dating John Williams. He was a passenger in the car at the time, and Wacome said he appeared to be under the influence of drugs.

“He seemed very fidgety, very erratic,” Wacome said Tuesday on the witness stand. “He was itching his arms. He had scabs on his face.”

The sheriff’s deputies arrested Pomerleau for driving without a license, and because they found drugs in the car, she also was later charged with possession of cocaine base and unlawful furnishing of cocaine. Wacome testified that John Williams had left the scene before they found the drugs, and the two men planned to search for him and arrest him during their next overnight shift beginning on April 24, 2018.

Chris Williams described his friend as upset and paranoid during the several days after the traffic stop.

The two men constantly used drugs and barely slept, he said. He said John Williams felt responsible for his girlfriend’s arrest because the drugs in the car were his, and he planned to sell more drugs to get money for her $5,000 bail. He also said John Williams had an upcoming court date in Massachusetts and was anxious about going to prison. And he said John Williams feared his drug supplier – a Connecticut man identified only as Orlando – and carried a handgun in a holster on his hip.

Defense attorney Verne Paradie asked if John Williams was afraid of harm by Orlando or his gang members.

“Extremely,” Chris Williams said.

The prosecutors asked Chris Williams about his own state of mind then.

“Even though you were using crack cocaine, sir, heavily, were you able to make decisions?” Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea asked.

“Yes, ma’am,” he said.

“And were you able to identify who you were speaking to in a conversation?” she asked.

“Yes, ma’am,” he said.

She also asked if Cole looked anything like the drug supplier Orlando. Chris Williams told her no.

After that phone call about the fatal shooting, Chris Williams said he alerted a sheriff’s deputy at the Cumberland Farms in Norridgewock. But then he left to look for John Williams and found him hiding in the bushes on a nearby road. John Williams asked for his car and his cellphone, and Chris Williams gave him the latter.

“I told him to turn himself in,” Chris Williams said. “He was screaming, ‘What do you want me to do?’ ”

John D. Williams is led by Maine State Police detectives into a cruiser after he was apprehended April 28, 2018, in Fairfield. David Leaming/Morning Sentinel

John Williams told him that he would go into the woods, make a confession about the drugs to help his girlfriend and then kill himself. He smoked crack from a pipe in the car and then left with a bag and a pistol. Chris Williams drove down the road and flagged down a local police officer to tell him what happened.

Zainea asked Chris Williams to identify the defendant in the courtroom. He had rarely looked at the man at the defendant’s table during his testimony, but at that moment, he turned his eyes to John Williams.

“He looks different, but that don’t mean he’s different,” Chris Williams said. “A haircut and a razor goes a long ways.”

The jury also heard testimony from Tim Scott, a longtime friend who also got a call from John Williams that night.

“He told me that he had messed up and that he was sorry,” Scott said.

Scott said John Williams did not explain what had happened.

“He was crying?” Paradie asked Tim Scott.

“Yes,” Scott said.

The jury also heard from police officers who helped collect evidence at the shooting scene and during the search for John Williams. The prosecutors entered those items as exhibits in clear plastic bags – a shotgun and a bulletproof vest found in a car near Cole’s body, the bullet that had killed him, a wallet with John Williams’ ID found on the ground in the woods, ammo left in multiple locations.

The defense attorneys asked few questions of the police witnesses, instead focusing on drawing more information out of the former friends who used drugs with John Williams and saw him around the time of the shooting. They have not disputed most of the facts presented at trial and have admitted John Williams killed Cole.

But the state has charged John Williams with intentional and knowing murder, and the defense has argued that he was too impaired by drugs at the time of the shooting to form that state of mind.

The trial will continue Wednesday morning.

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