July 24, 2012

State police seize arsenal after Maine Turnpike stop

Timothy Courtois had newspaper clippings of the Colorado shooting in his car and says he took a loaded gun Saturday into a local theater showing the new Batman movie.

By John Richardson jrichardson@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — A Biddeford man who was pulled over Sunday on the Maine Turnpike with an AK-47 assault rifle, several semi-automatic handguns, ammunition and news clippings about the Colorado theater shootings in his car remained in jail Monday on $50,000 cash bail.

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Maine State Police Trooper Philip Alexander seized several guns from Timothy Courtois of Biddeford following his arrest on a criminal speeding charge Sunday on the Maine Turnpike. A search of Courtois’ home turned up additional weapons including a machine gun and boxes of ammunition.

John Ewing / Staff Photographer

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Timothy Courtois, who was arrested Sunday, says he took a gun into a Saco theater showing the new Batman movie.

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Timothy Courtois, 49, told investigators he was speeding to New Hampshire to shoot a former employer, according to police. He also said he took a loaded handgun into the Saco Cinemagic Theater on Saturday night during a showing of the new Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises," the same movie that was playing in the Aurora, Colo., theater where 12 people were shot and killed early Friday.

"Thankfully, he was fully compliant and calm," said Maine State Police Trooper Philip Alexander, who pulled Courtois over Sunday morning and noticed the connections to Colorado. "Was he asking to get caught? Was it a cry for help? It could have been."

Courtois, who was being held at the York County Jail, pleaded not guilty Monday to criminal speeding and possession of concealed weapons without a permit. He is scheduled for a trial date in August, and also is expected to face federal charges.

The FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are investigating the case because of the firearms and Courtois' statement that he planned to cross state lines to shoot someone, police said.

Police followed up the traffic stop by searching Courtois' apartment at 344 Elm St., where they found boxes of ammunition and a larger arsenal of guns, including a fully automatic FN .308-caliber machine gun with a scope and tripod. It is illegal to own a fully automatic weapon without a federal firearms license. All of the other guns were legal to own, as long as they were not concealed.

Police said Courtois doesn't appear to have a criminal record. Neighbors said local police had visited his home in recent days, although Biddeford police did not confirm that Monday.

Neighbors also said they knew little about Courtois, who lives alone in a second-floor apartment and rarely had visitors. They were surprised and troubled about all the weapons in his home.

"Maybe I should start paying attention to my neighbors," said Denise Guay, who lives next door to Courtois. "It just goes to show you that you don't know."

Roger Guay, her husband, said the apparent connections to the deadly Colorado shootings were particularly disturbing, as was Courtois' ability to get weapons so easily.

"He was always getting packages," Guay said. "How can you amass an arsenal like that and not have someone suspect something?"

Courtois was stopped at 10 a.m. Sunday in York after motorists reported a black Mustang driving fast in the southbound lanes with its hazard lights on.

Alexander happened to be patrolling on the turnpike a few miles south in an unmarked gray Mustang. "He shot by me at 112 miles per hour," Alexander said.

Alexander turned on his lights, caught up to Courtois and pulled him over without incident, he said.

"He was unusually calm given the excessive speed. That raised a flag with me," Alexander said.

Other details raised flags, too, he said. The Mustang was nearly identical to one used by another trooper, and Courtois told Alexander he planned to put in a scanner and a dashboard camera like the ones in cruisers.

Courtois initially told Alexander he was racing to New Hampshire to get a concealed weapons permit, even though it was a Sunday morning.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Denise and Roger Guay of Amherst Street in Biddeford speak about the arrest of Timothy Courtois. “How can you amass an arsenal like that and not have someone suspect something?” Roger Guay asked.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Staff Photographer

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Police searched the apartment at 344 Elm St. in Biddeford where Timothy Courtois lives, and uncovered weapons including a machine gun, other guns and boxes of ammunition.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Staff Photographer

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Jeanne Mailhiot, who lives on Elm Street in Biddeford and is a neighbor of Timothy Courtois, reacts to the news that he was arrested. Maine State Police clocked Courtois going 112 mph on the Maine Turnpike on Sunday morning.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Staff Photographer

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