April 25th: One Year Since Corporal Eugene Cole Was Killed
April 25th, 2019 marks the one year anniversary of the death of Corporal Eugene Cole, who was killed in the line of duty.
It feels like everything changed on that morning when we first learned of 'a police situation' at a convenience store in Norridgewock. As the details started to come in there was news that a Somerset County Sheriff's Deputy had been killed. The initial assumption was that he died at the store, but we soon learned it was much worse than a robbery-gone-bad.
Police were first alerted when Corporal Cole's marked pickup truck pulled into the convenience store and a strange man got out. A man identified as John Williams stole cigarettes and a bottle of water before climbing back into the truck and pulling away. The clerk, who said Williams was a regular at the store, called and reported the incident. When Cole failed to answer calls on his radio, his law enforcement family began to look for him.
Cole's body was found next to a house in Norridgewock, where Williams had once lived. Officials say he had been shot to death before his truck was stolen. The ensuing manhunt involved multiple police agencies from Maine and other states, as well as the FBI, who offered a $20,000 reward.
Williams was finally located in the woods of Fairfield on April 28th and taken into custody. I'll never forget my own feelings of exhilaration and relief when I first learned that the manhunt was over. The timeline of the night Cole died tells the story of a chance confrontation between the Corporal and a man he had met before. John Williams has pleaded not guilty to the murder charge and his trial is expected to start in June.
Corporal Eugene Cole was remembered in a memorial service at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor on May 7th, 2018. Law enforcement agencies from across the nation, and even the Canadian Mounties turned out to honor the man who lost his life in the line of duty. The service is something I'll never forget, especially when his brother, Tom, got up to sing. There wasn't a dry eye in the house.
Through it all, Mainers have held the Cole family in their hearts. In Augusta, a fundraising campaign began to build a house for Gene's wife, Sheryl. She and Gene had been saving money to build their dream home when he was killed. Last month, Norridgewock Town Councilors named April 25th 'Corporal Eugene Cole Day.' A bridge in that town has also been named the Corporal Eugene Cole Memorial Bridge.
I remember Gene, not as a law enforcement officer, but as a musician. I worked with him and his brother, Tom, many times at events featuring their band, Borderline Express. Gene was the quiet one, who was obviously devoted to his family.
My thoughts are with them today and with his law enforcement family, as are the hearts of all Mainers as they remember Gene. We thank Corporal Eugene Cole for his service to Maine. May he rest in peace.
The Somerset County Sheriff's Office remembered Corporal Cole today on the department's Facebook page: