Manhunt continues for suspect in Maine police officer’s death

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For a third day, police are searching Friday for a man suspected of killing a deputy in central Maine and driving away with the officer’s squad vehicle, authorities said.

Investigators believe John Williams, 29, of Madison, Maine, shot and killed Cpl. Eugene Cole sometime between 1 and 2 a.m. Wednesday in the town of Norridgewock, Somerset County Sheriff Dale Lancaster said. The suspect was supposed to appear in a Massachusetts court later that day.

Williams then drove Cole’s vehicle to a Cumberland Farms convenience store in the same town and committed a theft there, Maine State Police said.

Authorities released surveillance images they said show Williams walking out of the store.

On Friday morning, Lancaster addressed Williams directly, saying that authorities learned the suspect may want to speak with them.

“If John Williams is listening to me … we will do anything to resolve this situation peacefully,” Lancaster told reporters. “I would like him to understand that we are here. We are willing to listen. Please reach out and let’s start that communication.”

Investigators have spoken with Williams’ family and friends and have a timeline of the suspect’s whereabouts the 24 hours before the shooting, officials said.

The officer’s vehicle was found abandoned Wednesday morning off a road in Norridgewock, state police said.

“The suspect should be considered armed and dangerous,” a police statement said.

Police haven’t said what led to the shooting, or how they came to suspect Williams.

The FBI said a $20,000 reward is being offered for information leading to Williams’ capture.

Williams had been set to appear Wednesday in Haverhill District Court in Massachusetts for a probable cause hearing related to his March 22 arrest on suspicion of having a gun without a license, said Carrie Kimball-Monahan, spokeswoman for the Essex district attorney’s office.

In that case, Williams was arrested after Massachusetts State Police troopers found him in a car in a ditch in Haverhill, Massachusetts, authorities said.

Cole was a father and an “outstanding” officer, Lancaster said.

Maine Gov. Paul LePage tweeted Wednesday that flags will be flown at half-staff in Cole’s memory for the next three days.

“Cpl. Cole served his community with honor,” LePage’s Twitter account reads. “His sacrifice will not be forgotten.”

Williams is 5 feet 6 inches tall, weighs 120 pounds, has blue eyes and brown hair with shaved sides and a ponytail on top, state police said.

Norridgewock, a town of about 3,000 people, is roughly a 90-minute drive northeast of Portland.