Metro

Deputy sheriff is fatally shot in Norridgewock, Maine

John Williams is being sought in connection with the shooting of a Somerset County sheriff's deputy.
Maine State Police
John Williams is being sought in connection with the shooting of a Somerset County sheriff's deputy.

The man suspected of murdering a Maine deputy sheriff early Wednesday was arrested in Massachusetts last month on gun charges, officials in both states said.

John Williams, 29, is the subject of a massive manhunt in Central Maine, where he allegedly fatally shot Somerset County Corporal Eugene Cole Wednesday and then stole the slain deputy’s marked cruiser.

Shortly after 9 p.m. Wednesday, Williams was still at large and the search for him was “very active,” said FBI spokeswoman Kristen Setera in an e-mail.

Advertisement

Williams was released from jail in Massachusetts on March 31 on $5,000 cash bail imposed following his arrest on the gun charges, officials said. He was scheduled to appear in Haverhill District Court Wednesday, according to Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett’s office, which is prosecuting him.

Get Fast Forward in your inbox:
Forget yesterday's news. Get what you need today in this early-morning email.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

Williams allegedly killed Cole around 1:45 a.m. Wednesday on Route 2 in Norridgewock, Maine. The circumstances were not detailed by Maine authorities on Wednesday, authorities said.

John Williams allegedly robbed a Cumberland Farms store in Norridgewock Wednesday morning before fleeing.
FBI
John Williams allegedly robbed a Cumberland Farms store in Norridgewock Wednesday morning before fleeing.

Williams allegedly then stole Cole’s marked police cruiser and robbed a Cumberland Farms store in Norridgewock before fleeing. The cruiser was discovered around 5 a.m. on Martin Stream Road in Norridgewock. Authorities said they believed Williams fled on foot.

Maine authorities said Williams, whose last known address was in Madison, Maine, should be considered armed and dangerous. Police on Wednesday were searching the residence in Madison where Williams last lived.

A Maine State Police official told reporters that law enforcement in the state usually says there is no public threat after a fatal shooting. “But that’s not the case today,’’ State Police Lieutenant Colonel John Cote said. “He’s a major public threat.”

Advertisement

Area residents who encounter him were urged to notify police and not to approach him.

The FBI has joined state and local law enforcement agencies as part of the search, which is being conducted on the ground and from the air, authorities said.

In the Massachusetts case, State Police patrolling I-495 on March 22 at around 5 a.m. discovered a car that had been driven off the road. Williams was the driver, and troopers allegedly discovered a 9mm Smith & Wesson pistol in the trunk of his car.

The pistol had 10 bullets in it and was capable of firing 16 rounds from a single magazine, according to a State Police report.

A second 9mm Smith and Wesson pistol, partially disassembled, was found in a black pouch in the trunk, troopers wrote. A 16-round magazine with nine bullets in it was found in the pouch, State Police wrote.

Advertisement

“Williams explained that he was able to legally carry the firearm in Maine, however, he did not possess a license to carry or a [firearms identification] card in Massachusetts,’’ troopers wrote, leading to his arrest.

Williams was charged with illegal possession of a firearm, illegal possession of a firearm with a large-capacity feeding device, and illegal possession of ammunition without an FID card. Bail was set at $10,000 cash.

His passenger, a 32-year-old Maine woman, was cited for possession of a prescription drug. Her name was not released.

According to Blodgett’s office, Williams was arraigned in Haverhill District Court on March 22, where prosecutors asked for $10,000 cash bail. Judge Timothy Patten set bail at $7,500 cash.

Williams did not post bail that day and on March 27, he appealed the bail amount to Essex Superior Court, where Superior Court Judge Timothy Feeley set bail at $5,000 cash, according to prosecutors.

Williams was released from the Essex County jail on March 31 after the $5,000 was posted on his behalf, according to prosecutors.

Williams is the second person enmeshed in the state’s criminal justice system who is accused of recently murdering an on-duty law enforcement officer.

Thomas M. Latanowich, 29, was being sought for violating the terms of probation from a Cape Cod gun conviction when he allegedly shot and killed Yarmouth police Officer Sean M. Gannon, and wounded his K-9 partner, Nero, earlier this month.

Latanowich has pleaded not guilty and is being held without bail.

Cole is at least the 43rd police officer to die in the line of duty this year, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington.

Danny McDonald of the Globe Staff contributed to this story. John R. Ellement can be reached at ellement@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.