WATERVILLE — One man is dead after an hours-long standoff that began Tuesday afternoon with reports of gunfire along a stretch of College Avenue that was closed off by police responding to the incident.

Waterville police Chief Joseph Massey said on Wednesday afternoon that just before 4 a.m., James Croxford, 23, a transient, was found dead with a weapon next to him in the basement of a vacant office building at 8 Highwood St.

For the neighbors who live next door to the brick building, the incident started early Monday morning. Lynn and Mitchell Berry have lived next door to the brick building for about 15 years.

On Monday morning around 2:30 a.m., Lynn Berry said she called the police after hearing windows being broken inside the brick building. According to the Waterville dispatch log, officers received the report of criminal mischief at 2:31 a.m. on Monday.

“It woke me up,” Lynn Berry said. “Starting on the back side of the building, it almost sounded like a nail gun. It was a loud noise. My windows were open, and then we started hearing shots on the front side of the building. I shut my windows. Glass was hitting our house. I don’t know if it was (Croxford) or a separate incident.”

Berry added that she checked tax records to find the owner of the property and sent them a letter Tuesday morning, hours before the incident happened, asking them to do more to secure the building as the incidents going on had begun to infringe on their safety and wellness.

Three years ago, after experiencing thefts committed on their property, the Berrys installed Nest cameras.

On Tuesday afternoon around 4:15, Waterville police received several 911 calls about gunshots being fired around 50 College Ave., Massey said. The supervisor on duty at the police department suspected that the callers may have had the wrong address, so officers were also sent to the area of 150 College Ave. Police converged on College Avenue and cordoned off a large area between Hazelwood Avenue and Highwood Street where the gunshots had reportedly been heard.

Officers heard shots coming from inside the vacant, brick office building at 8 Highwood St., Massey said. As they approached the building, Croxford broke out a window. Officers heard a shot and saw the barrel of a shotgun poking out of the window. They retreated and called for more units to set up the perimeter. At that time, officers did not know who the individual was in the building. A nearby resident said that the building has been vacant for about 10 years.


Lynn and Mitchell Berry’s home around 4:30 p.m. Aug. 25, 2020, when shots started going off in their Waterville neighborhood.

Lynn Berry said she and her husband were notified of the situation shortly after 4:15 and were told they could not return home from their jobs.

Just after 4:26 p.m., Berry said, her Nest camera picked up the sound of gunshots from the rear of the building. The sound of the shots alerted her dogs, Greta and Tucker. Greta was barking out of the windows on the side of the house that faces the brick structure. A moment later, additional gunshots were fired at the Berrys’ residence, almost striking the dog and smashing out several windows.

“It appeared that he targeted (the dog,)” Lynn Berry said. “He broke that window, and you see the rifle barrel point out the window right at her head. We were at work. Our neighbor was on her way home and couldn’t get here, and she called me to let me know I couldn’t get home.”

Around 6:30 p.m., officers heard two shots come from inside the building. Waterville police had already reached out to Maine State Police and requested their tactical unit.

At a media briefing Tuesday evening, Massey said that multiple agencies had responded and no injuries had been reported. The shooter was contained, but was not in custody as of 9 p.m., when police began to use a loudspeaker to communicate with the person inside the brick building.

On Wednesday, Massey confirmed that Croxford was barricaded in the vacant building at 8 Highwood St. that the chief believed was once occupied by Mount St. Joseph Nursing Home.

The brick building has three floors and a basement, and police determined that the Maine State Police tactical team was not large enough to get into the immense building safely. Portland Police Department was called and dispatched its tactical unit to help out at the scene.

Police used a State Police drone and robot to try to look into the building and locate the individual. Negotiations were attempted throughout the night, but officers were not able to establish any communications with Croxford.

Around 4 a.m., tactical units got inside the building and started clearing each floor. Croxford was located in the basement.

Police are waiting for the medical examiner’s office to confirm the cause of death. Massey would not confirm the cause of death on Wednesday. The incident is still under investigation as law enforcement are working to find out what Croxford was doing prior to shots being fired.

Mitchell and Lynn Berry stand outside their residence adjacent to the vacant building on Highwood Street in Waterville on Wednesday. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Berry said that she and her husband parked their vehicle at TJ’s Burgers and Dogs at 8 Seavey St. while the incident unfolded. They were able to return to their house around 5 a.m. Wednesday morning.

“The police did communicate with us,” she said. “They had our information because we had called them on Monday at 2:30 in the morning because somebody was in that building breaking windows. There was somebody up on the third floor (on Monday) breaking windows and our driveway was covered in glass.”

Waterville police were in close contact with her throughout the night, first checking to make sure they were safe and then to provide her and her husband with updates. The Berrys checked frequently on their cameras to make sure their pets were OK, and said that they mostly stayed away from the damaged windows.

A resident at the Home Place Inn, who wanted to remain anonymous, said that she stayed in her living space as things unfolded throughout the night. She said that the incident has made her feel unsafe in the area, citing a recent shooting at the Home Place Inn.

“I don’t feel safe here,” she said. “I feel that it’s a vulnerability to all the neighbors surrounding them and (Mt. St. Joseph) nursing home. At least if the owners put cameras up, or boarded at least all the buildings and entrances, it might deter some random shooter from taking cover.”

Berry added that she was glad she wasn’t home as she knew the noise would have also brought her to the window where the shots came through. She spent Wednesday morning with some friends and husband cleaning up the mess at their home, getting their windows replaced and making an insurance claim. Their television, dining room trim, and built-in hutch were also damaged. They had to replace the locks on their home as they had given the key to the police department and it was then lost.

For now, they have temporary window panes in place while they wait for the replacements to be made. American Glass Co. estimated it would take three to four weeks, but are trying to expedite the process given the circumstances.

She added that she was told that the bullet used was some type of bird shot.

The Berrys have had little to no sleep in the last 25 hours and are trying to process everything that happened.

“Our pets are traumatized like we all are,” she said. “(The Nest cameras) came in handy. They give us this little peace of mind.”

Waterville police posted on Facebook around 5 a.m. Wednesday that the situation had been resolved and the area had been reopened to traffic. No motives have been established yet.

Massey added that about 50 officers were at the scene helping out. Around 25 nearby residents, most from the Home Place Inn, had been relocated for the evening as the situation unfolded. Included in that number were families and children as well as some who had medical issues and needed to stay at the hospital to receive medication.

James Croxford Waterville Police photo

Croxford was arrested last November on an aggravated assault charge, Massey said. Police also dealt with him a few weeks ago, but no charges were filed.

Massey said that safely surrounding the building was difficult. “One side of the building made it very problematic logistics-wise, making it very difficult to breach and go in safely.”

He added that the Waterville department does not have the kind of resources needed for this operation and it couldn’t have been done without the assistance of nearby agencies, which include Maine State Police, Fairfield, Oakland, Winslow and Clinton police departments, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Waterville Fire and Rescue, and Delta Ambulance.

“No one was hurt,” Massey said. “No officers were hurt, and we are very pleased that no one else was injured. This is a very tragic, unfortunate incident.”

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