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Prosecutor: Defendant killed deputy despite pleas

By DAVID SHARPJune 10, 2019
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John Williams, left, who is charged with murder in the slaying of Somerset County Cpl. Eugene Cole, enters the Cumberland County Courthouse in Portland, Maine for opening arguments Monday, June 10, 2019. (Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald via AP, Pool)
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John Williams, left, who is charged with murder in the slaying of Somerset County Cpl. Eugene Cole, enters the Cumberland County Courthouse in Portland, Maine for opening arguments Monday, June 10, 2019. (Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald via AP, Pool)

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A drug dealer angry over his girlfriend’s arrest and facing jail himself seized an opportunity to kill a deputy who fell during an arrest attempt, coldly pressing his handgun against the deputy’s neck before pulling the trigger, a prosecutor told jurors Monday.

John Williams told detectives he “eliminated” the deputy who’d lost his footing and slipped to the ground, Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea said.

Cpl. Eugene Cole “begged the defendant not to shoot him, saying ‘No!’ But his pleas were disregarded by the defendant,” Zainea told jurors.

Defense lawyer Verne Paradie contends Williams was suffering from sleep deprivation and heavy drug use, and wasn’t out to kill anyone.

Neither side disputes Williams killed Cole with a single bullet from a 9mm Ruger during an encounter on April 25, 2018, in Norridgewock.

Zainea told jurors Williams was angry at Cole for arresting his girlfriend a few days earlier during a traffic stop and was fearful of going to jail in Massachusetts for a gun charge when Cole encountered the police officer outside a home in Norridgewock.

Williams wanted to avoid jail at all costs but was unable to think through consequences of his actions because he’d gone days without sleep while using crack cocaine and heroin, Paradie said.

A drug addiction expert who reviewed the case and will testify at the trial likened Williams’ mindset to that of a trapped animal. “That animal will chew its leg off to get out of that trap, not thinking about what it’s like to have three legs,” Paradie said.

Cole, 61, was the first Maine police officer to be killed in the line of duty in nearly three decades, and his killing led to a massive manhunt. Williams was shirtless and shoeless when he was captured outside a cabin several days later.

Williams confessed to police, and jurors will hear part of the confession.

But Williams only told detectives what they wanted to hear because he was tired and hungry, and because he’d been allegedly beaten during his arrest, his lawyer said. A judge determined Williams had been punched at least once.

Friends said Williams was acting paranoid on the night of the killing and had a bulletproof vest and ammunition. After the shooting, Williams stole the deputy’s cruiser and drove to a convenience store, where he stole cigarettes and a bottle of water. Then he ditched the vehicle and went into hiding.

Cole, who lived in Norridgewock, was known for treating people humanely — even those he was arresting — and for his ability to defuse a situation.

An estimated 3,600 people including hundreds of law enforcement officers attended a memorial for Cole at an arena in Bangor. Some in the audience wore T-shirts quoting the Bible verse that included the phrase “blessed are the peace makers.”

The trial was moved to Maine’s largest city due to concerns of finding an impartial jury in Somerset County, where the crime took place.

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