Originally published in The Weekly Packet, August 30, 2018
When police emergency disrupts Main Street, everyone responds
by Anne Berleant
When a 40-mile car chase that started in Northport ended in downtown Blue Hill early on August 18, local law enforcement and first responders jumped in to assist the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office, whose officers were first to attempt to stop the vehicle, and picked up state police and Searsport and Bucksport police officers throughout the chase.
“We got a phone call that a chase was coming our way,” Hancock County Sheriff Scott Kane said. “Our two officers [covering the county] ended up on the tail end of the chase as it got into Blue Hill.”
The vehicle, driven by an elderly man suffering a medical issue, ended up against a Bar Harbor Bank & Trust building on Main Street, disabled by flat tires from a deflation device earlier in the chase and four shots, directed at the car’s tires, fired at the crash scene by a Searsport Police officer.
“When you have a chase through 40-odd miles through how many towns, and end up in a community like Blue Hill, you’re lucky [no one] was hurt,” Kane said.
Blue Hill Fire Chief Matt Dennison was watching the rain fall when he got the call, he said. Department personnel directed traffic around the portion of Main Street that was closed, from the bank to Parker Point Road.
“We just diverted traffic,” Dennison said. “Anything that was coming through town went up through Union Street.”
The part of Main Street closed included Fairwinds Florist, but before it was closed, an employee’s 15-year-old son opened the door just as shots were fired.
“He was pushing open the door and we heard all the shots,” owner Cullen Schneider said. “I yelled at him to get away from the door.”
With two weddings to prepare bouquets for, four planned deliveries, and customer pickups, the closure did not come at the best time for the Main Street florist.
During the three-hour closure the busy shop adjusted, sending its delivery vans onto Parker Point Road for access to Tenney Hill.
However, because it was a Saturday, there were less people on the streets than on a weekday morning.
“If it had been any day but Saturday, those shots would have been inappropriate,” Schneider offered.
Sheriff Kane said that an investigation into the fired shots is mandatory and will be handled by the state attorney general’s officer. He said that every sheriff department has its own policies regarding firing shots.
“My two deputies followed our policies to the letter, and I’m very, very pleased,” Kane said. “They had very limited involvement, but they followed it to the letter.”
Dennison recalled “quite a few people irritated about not being able to get to Bar Harbor Bank, obviously.”
The BHHT Facebook page posted the Blue Hill branch was unable to open at 9:39 a.m., with Catherine Planchart, VP, Corporate Communications and Community Relations, declining to comment on an ongoing police matter.
For Dennison, while the incident itself was “kind of different,” in the end “it was just normal traffic control.”
The driver was taken to an area hospital for evaluation and Sheriff Kane said he doubted any charges would be filed in Hancock County.
“I don’t quite honestly remember a chase going that far,” he said. “Forty odd miles is a heck of a long way.”