– By ERIN COX

Sun Journal

RUMFORD – A Rumford police officer died from a gunshot wound Thursday during a confrontation with a game warden who was part of a group searching for him in the woods behind his home, officials said.

Administrative officer Eric Richard was shot shortly after 10 a.m. as game wardens and a pair of Maine State Police troopers using a tracking dog searched the woods, Attorney General William Schneider said. The officer and Warden Jeremy Judd, 34, were in an armed confrontation, Schneider said.

Richard, 46, died from a gunshot wound, but the manner of death has not yet been determined by the state Medical Examiner’s Office, Schneider said. It was not clear if Richard was shot by Judd or shot himself.

Several law enforcement agencies were on the scene Thursday including the state police, the Maine Warden Service, Rumford police and deputies from the Oxford County Sheriff’s Department. Investigators from the state Attorney General’s Office were also on the scene.

Col. Robert Williams, state police chief, went to the scene along with a team of detectives and evidence technicians.

During the day, the end of Cedar Lane was closed to traffic as the Attorney General’s Office conducted an investigation. The state police mobile command unit, the Medical Examiner’s Office and the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office were also on the scene.

Richard was well-known in the community for conducting the police department’s Child Identification Program at public events.

He won a malpractice lawsuit in 2005 against Dr. Eric Omsberg, a Waterville neurosurgeon. Richard’s suit maintained Omsberg had severed a critical vein during an operation, leaving Richard with a permanently swollen and painful leg.

Richard, a former patrolman, was required to work as a dispatcher after the surgery because he had to be on blood thinners. Richard’s attorney at the time, Jodi Nofsinger, said if he sustained an injury, he could bleed to death.

Richard lived with his wife, Tamera, at the end of Cedar Lane. The couple grew up together in Peru and attended Rumford High School.

Tamera Richard is an employee at Rumford Hospital and has two sons, Steve Smith and Nicholas Smith.

Nicholas Smith is a corporal in the Marine Corps and works on an anti-terrorism team. He is deployed overseas. His mother had set up a Facebook event planning a homecoming party for him next week.

In support of Richard’s wife, friends Thursday changed their Facebook profile pictures to a blue candle.