BANGOR — The final police radio transmission for officer 1312 went out at 1:47 p.m. Monday.

“Cpl. Eugene Cole – you are now 10-7,” the dispatcher said, telling all the cars and stations for Maine State Police and the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office that Cole was out of service.

County deputies then carried Cole’s casket, illuminated by a bright white light, out of the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor to a crowd waiting outside the venue, where an estimated 3,600 people had attended his funeral.

Once outside, there was a police gun salute and the playing of taps, and the American flag that had draped Cole’s casket on the trip Monday from Skowhegan to Bangor was presented to Cole’s widow, Sheryl Cole, by Somerset County Sheriff Dale Lancaster, offering her the slow salute of honor and grief. The flag presentation was followed by a flyover of aircraft from the state police, the Maine Warden Service, the Maine Marine Patrol and the Maine Forest Service.

In remarks during the service, Lancaster said Cole “epitomized community policing” and also “exemplified our core values: integrity, respect, fairness and dedication.”

“Gene worked every day to make Somerset County and Norridgewock a safer place to live,” Lancaster said. “Goodbye for now, my friend. We will never forget you.”

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Cole, the Somerset County sheriff’s officer who was shot and killed while on duty April 25, was remembered Monday as a model policeman who was beloved in his community and whose recent death deeply affected law enforcement across the region, state and nation. Law enforcement came from all New England states and from as far away as Texas and Florida, according to Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety.

The men and women in blue, black, brown, green and red uniforms marched in formation, ready to enter the funeral venue, from early in the morning until the final call. Bagpipes could be heard in the distance, playing a mournful melody.

Thousands of people also turned out along the route of the procession that brought Cole’s casket from Skowhegan to Bangor.

Somerset County Detective David Cole – Eugene Cole’s son – broke down in tears at the service as he spoke of his mother’s strength and his memories of his father.

“Rest easy, dad. We’ve got the watch from here,” he said.

Cole, who was 61 and a 13-year veteran of the sheriff’s office, was the first Maine police officer to die in a shooting in nearly 30 years. John D. Williams, 29, of Madison, is alleged to have shot and killed Cole and stolen his marked cruiser just after 1 a.m. April 25. He made his first court appearance April 30 in Augusta and was charged with murder.

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An elite motorcycle unit from the New York City Police Department led Monday’s procession, which departed Skowhegan about 10:30 a.m. and arrived at the Bangor facility about 11:50 a.m.

By noontime, officers were carrying Cole’s flag-draped coffin into the building. Inside the venue moments before – with Cole’s police pickup truck parked in front of the stage – a hush fell as twin screens showed the motorcade and hearse arriving and officers standing at attention.

Around 12:10 p.m., family and close relatives of Cole filed into the expansive arena, which was mostly silent except for the gentle hum of air conditioning and the clicks of camera shutters. Color guards from all over New England posted their flags in honor of Cole and in a show of unified service.

A celebration of Cole’s life was underway soon after, with Somerset County Sheriff’s Chaplain Kevin Brooks officiating.

“He was always fair,” Brooks said. “He was even fair to those he had to take enforcement action against. We were blessed every day he was here.”

Cole was a musician in life and is surely playing lead guitar in a band in heaven, Brooks said.

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Cole’s classic country band, Borderline Express, which has been popular in central Maine for decades, performed “American Soldier.” His brother Tom and Tom’s son Scott performed “Homesick,” and later the Christian hymn “I Surrender All.” . “Amazing Grace” and “If It Wasn’t for the Badge” also were performed.

CROWDS LINE ROUTE OF PROCESSION

Skowhegan Fire Chief Shawn Howard, who knew Cole personally, was helping lead the effort Monday morning as the procession left Skowhegan. The fire department, in conjunction with firefighters from Benton and Fairfield, had hoisted a large American flag over Madison Avenue for the procession to pass under.

“Today is about showing honor and respect for his family and honoring his life,” Howard said. “When this is over we’ll take a minute to grieve as individuals. Right now we have a mission to bring honor and respect to Cpl. Cole’s family.”

Among the crowds in Skowhegan were John Murphy and Kelly Hageman, who held homemade signs along the road that read “Rest in Peace” and “Thank you for your service.”

Mac Watts, 61, sat in a lawn chair across from Smart & Edwards Funeral Home, where the Cole family waited and received hugs from visitors. Blue ribbons hung on telephone poles along the street.

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“I’m just here to pay my respects,” Watts said. “I think it’s time we support our law enforcement. You never really expect something like this to happen in a small community, but I guess that doesn’t make us exempt from these kinds of things.”

 

Farther down Madison Avenue, George and Renee White were watching with their three children.

George White, who was wearing a hat and shirt from the Maine Criminal Justice Academy, is studying to become a law enforcement officer. He said he made the decision to do so the day after Cole died.

“He’s been thinking about it for a while, but with Gene’s passing he pretty much decided he needed to do this,” said Renee White, 36.

The family didn’t know Cole well, but George White used to work at the Somerset County Jail with him and they would occasionally see him around town on patrol. White, 41, said he also knew Cole from his days running an electronics repair shop in Skowhegan.

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“His death made me think about the job more and how important it is what they do out there,” he said.

“It scares me to death,” his wife said, “but it’s something he wants to do.”

‘HE MADE THE ULTIMATE SACRIFICE’

Fire departments from around Somerset County, along with a few from Kennebec and Franklin counties, lined the route from Skowhegan to Newport for the procession.

Meanwhile, every bridge overpass across Interstate 95 from Newport to Bangor was lined with people and fire engines, red lights flashing.

In Bangor, former Skowhegan Police Chief Larry Jones stood at the Cross center as the procession neared.

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“This is just so overwhelming,” said Jones, who retired in 1994. “So many law enforcement, so many people. Gene was a wonderful guy; everybody liked him.”

Brooks, the county sheriff’s chaplain, said Cole was the sort of man who could have served in any law enforcement agency, yet he chose to patrol his own hometown of Norridgewock, where he ultimately met his killer.

“We are fortunate he chose to serve in Somerset County,” Brooks told the assembly. “He worked every day. He made the ultimate sacrifice.”

Portland Press Herald staff writer Matt Byrne contributed to this report.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

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Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm


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