FBI Offers $20K Reward in Manhunt for Suspect in Deputy’s Killing

What to Know

  • Search for 29-year-old John Williams of Madison, Maine is ongoing; police believe he is still in the Norridgewock area
  • Williams is accused of gunning down Somerset County Sheriff's Deputy Cpl. Eugene Cole overnight Wednesday
  • Williams is described as being 5'6", 120 pounds with blue eyes, brown hair and a full beard

The FBI is offering up to a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of an armed and extremely dangerous suspect who police say gunned down a Maine sheriff's deputy on Wednesday.

The ongoing manhunt for 29-year-old John Williams is focused on the greater Norridgewock area after police announced they had no information to lead them to believe the Madison resident had left the region following the slaying of Somerset County Sheriff's Deputy Cpl. Eugene Cole early Wednesday morning.

"Mr. Williams poses a very real danger to the public. We're hoping this reward incentivizes anyone with information about his whereabouts to contact law enforcement," said Harold Shaw, special agent in charge of the FBI Boston Division.

Police will continue patrolling, interviewing and following leads, Somerset County Sheriff Dale Lancaster said.

"If John Williams is hearing this, I want you to turn yourself in. Please surrender peacefully," Lancaster said at a news conference. He said authorities have had no contact with Williams.

Helicopters, armored vehicles and police cruisers were spotted around Norridgewock on Thursday, and schools were locked down as federal, state and local law enforcement poured into the region to look for Williams.

More than 20 police vehicles raced to Bear Mountain Road off Martin Stream Road in Fairfield around 10:30 a.m. Thursday. Media reports said someone received a report of a person in a shed, but police wouldn't say why they were in the area.

Caution tape was placed across Bear Mountain Road just before noon, but law enforcement then abruptly left the area around 1:30 p.m.

Residents are encouraged to lock their doors and vehicles, and to report any suspicious activity to police, since authorities believe he is still armed and dangerous. Police also implored those who may have had contact with Williams, including through texts and social media, to contact police.

"We believe we've been able to contain him at least in the greater area," state police Lt. Col. John Cote said. "Everyone's goal is the safe apprehension of John Williams."

State police and the Somerset County Sheriff's Department did not give additional details about what led to Cole's death, saying it is still part of the ongoing investigation.

Cole, 62, was a 13-year veteran of the Somerset County Sheriff's Office. His son is also a Somerset County deputy.

He was gunned down between 1 and 2 a.m. Wednesday on Route 2 in Norridgewock, about 60 miles west of Bangor. Williams then allegedly stole Cole's marked cruiser and robbed a Cumberland Farms store on Waterville Road. He was last seen fleeing the store in the stolen cruiser.

The cruiser was found abandoned around 5 a.m. off of Martin Stream Road in Norridgewock. Investigators believe Williams then fled on foot, and has been at large ever since.

Williams is described as 5-foot-6, 120 pounds with blue eyes. His hair is brown and unkempt, and he has a full beard. He was last seen wearing a black beanie hat, a dark-colored zip-up jacket, gray pants and tan boots. His last known address is 16 Jones St. in Madison, and he has ties to both New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

Police said he has at least eight tattoos, including the words "Seven Eleven" on his chest, the abbreviation "est" just below that, the name "Williams" on his lower abdomen, a half sleeve on his left arm, the word "Semper" on his upper right arm, the word "Fidelis" on his upper left arm, a small safety selector symbol on the back of his left hand, and "Molon Labe" on his right forearm. According to records checks, he does not have any military experience.

The manhunt for Williams is being coordinated by the Somerset County Sheriff's Office with help from Maine State Police, police from New Hampshire and Massachusetts, the U.S. Marshals and FBI, along with other law enforcement agencies.

A search warrant was executed on Williams' Madison home Wednesday night. Tactical vehicles lined up outside and police asked anyone inside to come out with their hands up over a loudspeaker.

"We are trying to get your side of the story," police were overheard saying. "We understand it's been a long day. We want to help you resolve this."

At least five officers with long guns were seen entering the home by 8 p.m., and an evidence response team was seen leaving the home hours later.

Maine criminal records show that Williams was charged with felony burglary in 2005 and misdemeanor theft in 2007. He also has an arrest record in Tennessee.

A little over a month ago, on March 22, he was arrested on multiple firearms charges and traffic violations in Haverhill, Massachusetts, after he apparently drove off Interstate 495 and into a ditch. He was found with a 9mm handgun and a 16-round magazine after he told the police that he dozed off while driving.

An officer wrote in the report that Williams appeared tired and impaired, but denied having consumed any alcohol or illegal drugs. Police also found containers with a powder residue, a pocket knife, razor blade and short drinking straw. The report noted that razor blades and straws are commonly used when snorting lines of narcotics.

Williams was not charged with any drug offenses. The charges against him included possession of a firearm, improper storage of a firearm, possession of ammunition without an FID card, possession of a large-capacity feeding device, negligent operation of a motor vehicle and a marked lanes violation.

Prosecutors requested $10,000 bail, but a judge set it at $7,500 and it was later reduced by another judge to $5,000. Williams posted bail on March 31 and was due to return to court in Massachusetts for a probable cause hearing Wednesday.

That image contrasts with Williams' days at Skowhegan High School, where a yearbook showed he once served as a class officer.

"When in school he was a nice, funny and an all-around good guy," said classmate Casey Sprout-Costa.

Another classmate, Alex Stetkis, said Williams was an honor student who was class president in his junior year. But things went downhill when he started picking fights and getting into drugs.

"Most could not believe it," Stetkis said of the news that Williams was suspected in the killing. "He was always kind and could have gone anywhere in life if he hadn't gotten into drugs."

Williams' Facebook page features photos of him smiling at a graduation ceremony as well as other photos of him hiking, hanging out with friends and dressed in a suit at a wedding party. His last post in 2017 noted how he was starting a new job in nearby Anson, Maine.

Anyone with information about Williams' whereabouts is asked to call state police at 207-624-7076. Tips can also be submitted electronically at tips.fbi.gov.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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