A Richmond man who shot and killed himself this month as he was about to be arrested at his home over allegations of stolen property suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from his four tours of duty with the Army in Iraq, where he witnessed his best friend since kindergarten get killed in a mortar attack, according to the man’s family.

The brother, the sister and the ex-wife of the late Jesse Melanson said he was a great father to his two children, that he was hardworking and generous, but also that he wasn’t the same person when he came home from Iraq.

Lisa Melanson said when she talked to her brother last month, he said the medication he took to try to control his PTSD was too strong and was making him sick, so he had stopped taking it. She said she urged him to go to VA Maine Healthcare System-Togus to adjust his medication. He told her he would.

“He told me when he’s not on his medication, he has thoughts of hurting people, or himself,” Lisa Melanson said of her brother Jesse, in an interview.

This undated photo was taken when Jesse Melanson was serving in the Army. Photo courtesy of the Melanson family

Jesse James Melanson, 33, of Richmond, was about to be arrested and charged Feb. 15 with receiving stolen property by the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office at his Alexander Reed Road home, according to state police, when he grabbed a handgun out of his truck and shot and killed himself.

Family members said stealing, or any criminal behavior, would be completely out of character for Jesse Melanson, and they said if he was involved in any illegal activity, his PTSD could have been a factor in that.

They said despite his struggles, he was a great father to his children, Presley, 1, and Gavin, 10. They said he did everything with Gavin, such as going all-terrain vehicle riding and doing other outdoor activities, and the pair were best friends.

Neither the two children nor his wife, Robin Bussiere Melanson, were home when police arrived there Feb. 15 with a search warrant seeking items police believe had been stolen.

Dana McMahon, left, and Ervin Melanson talk about the late Jesse Melanson on Thursday in Topsham. Staff photo by Joe Phelan

As Melanson was about to be arrested that afternoon he asked a Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office detective if he could go into his garage to get his garage door opener so he could use it to get back into his house after he posted bail, according to Richmond Police Chief Scott MacMaster, who had gone to the house to assist Lincoln County detectives as they searched the residence.

Once in his garage, according to Steve McCausland, spokesman for Maine Department of Public Safety, Melanson went into his truck parked inside and got a handgun.

MacMaster, who was nearby, trying to get Melanson’s dog back into the house, then heard Lincoln County Detective Scott Hayden, who was with Melanson, struggling with Melanson in the truck, saying, “Stop, stop!” MacMaster rushed in and joined the struggle, trying to get the gun away from Melanson. MacMaster said when it became clear they were unable to get the weapon away from him because of the positions they were in, and unsure of what he intended to do with the gun, MacMaster and Hayden backed off and planned to call for backup.

“When it became apparent we couldn’t wrestle it away, because of the positioning of Mr. Melanson, both of us stepped off to set up a perimeter, and notify other officers what was going on,” MacMaster said. “We had to make a decision. We didn’t know his intent. Was the weapon going to be used on us? At that point we weren’t sure of anything.”

Melanson then shot himself in the head.

Lisa and Ervin Melanson said they don’t understand why police let their brother go into the garage before he was placed under arrest. Lisa Melanson said they should have said “no.” They said they had not yet talked to police about the incident, but they hope to do so.

MacMaster said that on both Feb. 15 and Feb. 14 – when an initial search warrant was acted upon by sheriff’s deputies and Melanson was also arrested, Melanson was completely cooperative and there had been indications he planned to bail himself out again on the 15th and return home, and no signs he might harm himself or anyone else.

“He asked to email his work to let them know he wouldn’t be in, he grabbed some personal items, he talked about talking to his attorney. … Every indicator he gave was he was just going to be a cooperative suspect, like he had been the day before, who was going to go and bail out and deal with what he had for charges,” MacMaster said.

Lincoln County Lt. Michael Murphy said he could not discuss the events leading up to Melanson shooting himself, as state police investigated that part of the incident.

He did say he thinks the officers involved in the incident handled it appropriately.

Melanson’s funeral services, including an Army honors ceremony at the Maine Veterans Memorial Cemetery chapel on Mount Vernon Road in Augusta, were held Friday.

Melanson joined the Army right after graduating from Lisbon High School, signing up in 2001 with Beau Ramsey Beaulieu, who Ervin Melanson said had been Jesse’s best friend since kindergarten.

They served in Iraq together, Ervin Melanson said, and Jesse Melanson gave his son Gavin the middle name of Beau, in his friend’s honor.

Beaulieu died in Iraq in May 2004 from wounds suffered in a mortar attack.

Lisa Melanson said her brother told her he saw his friend killed, which she said probably is a major source of his PTSD.

Keith Edwards can be contacted at 621-5647 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: kedwardskj

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