Officials say John D. Williams spent three days evading 200 law enforcement officers. On Saturday, the fourth day of the manhunt, authorities arrested him using the handcuffs of the sheriff’s deputy they say he fatally shot.
“I thought that it was fitting,” Somerset County Sheriff Dale Lancaster told reporters on Saturday afternoon. “He killed my deputy, Corporal Gene Cole, and he was brought to justice using Cole’s handcuffs.”
Cpl. Eugene Cole was fatally shot sometime after 1 a.m. Wednesday in the small Maine town of Norridgewock. Maine State Police said Williams killed the deputy before stealing his cruiser and committing a theft. Williams was seen on surveillance camera walking inside a convenience store minutes after the shooting.
The deputy’s cruiser was found abandoned a few hours later.
The manhunt covered a large wooded area near Norridgewock. Lt. Col. John Cote of the Maine State Police said dozens of officers who were divided into teams combed through rough terrain and found evidence, such as fresh footprints, suggesting that Williams was in the area. One of the teams spotted Williams at a remote campsite just before 1 p.m. Saturday, police said.
A photo shared on Facebook by Maine State Police showed Williams lying on his stomach with his hands behind his back while an officer grabbed a handful of his hair. Cote said officers needed to take a picture of Williams to confirm his identity, but Williams refused to raise his head.
Williams was not injured, Cote told reporters.
Photos taken by local media showed the heavily tattooed 29-year-old shirtless, barefoot and wrapped from the waist down with what appears to be a yellow tarp as he was being led away by authorities.
The sheriff’s office said Cole was a 13-year veteran of the agency.
“Had another officer been a victim in this case, we knew Gene would have been here every day, bringing his best effort to apprehend the suspect,” Lancaster, the sheriff, told reporters. “He would’ve been proud of our efforts.”
Lancaster said Cole’s career epitomized what community policing meant.
“Part of the outpour we’ve had with this community was because of Gene’s interaction with the people here,” Lancaster said. “He was part of this community. He was their deputy sheriff.”
Investigators declined to comment further on why Cole was killed. It’s also unclear what charges Williams will face.
The FBI, along with local and state agencies, had offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to Williams’s arrest.
Shortly before Williams was arrested, Cole’s widow urged him to turn himself in.
“Mr. Williams, be assured you’ll be treated the same way Corporal Cole would have treated you if you had given him the opportunity — with dignity and respect,” according to the widow’s statement, ABC affiliate WCJB reported. “We just want you to talk to someone. Please, please talk to us.”