SKOWHEGAN — During a funeral service May 7 in Bangor for the slain Cpl. Eugene Cole, of the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Dale Lancaster presented Cole’s widow with an American flag that had been draped on her husband’s casket.

Tuesday night, Skowhegan police Chief David Bucknam and the Board of Selectmen returned the honor with a Thin Blue Line memorial flag presented to Lancaster.

“Sometimes it’s just really hard to find the words … to know what it is you really want to say. Words can be just so inadequate,” Bucknam said opening the presentation. “We’ve asked the sheriff to come down here today because a fellow officer, a friend, a brother, was taken from us. He worked for the sheriff’s office, but he was still a brother to us at the Skowhegan Police Department and the town of Skowhegan.”

Bucknam pointed out that Town Manager Christine Almand “took it upon herself” to fly the Thin Blue Line flags in town for a procession to Cole’s celebration of life in Bangor. This was one of those flags, he said.

“We’d like to present it to you in memory of Cpl. Cole,” the chief said.

Lancaster thanked Bucknam, saying it was an honor to receive it.

“I know the town was very helpful during our four-day search,” Lancaster said of the manhunt involving some 200 law enforcement officers in the days after Cole’s death. “And every agency that came, their assistance was part of our successful conclusion in capturing the man that killed Cpl. Cole, so thank you chief.”

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

Once outside, there was a police gun salute, taps was played and the American flag that had covered Cole’s casket on the trip from Skowhegan to Bangor was presented to Cole’s widow, Sheryl Cole, by Lancaster, offering her the slow salute of honor and grief.

Paul York, chairman of the Skowhegan Board of Selectmen, next called for a vote on a proclamation making April 25 Corporal Eugene Cole Day in the town of Skowhegan. The vote was unanimous.

York read from the proclamation, praising Cole as a member of the Skowhegan area community, as a civilian, a military veteran and a sheriff’s deputy.

“Let’s not look at April 25 as a sad day,” York said. “It’s just nice to know we have good people out there and he was one of them. It was a big loss, but we’re good to go.”

Lancaster, in remarks during the May 7 service in Bangor, 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.”

The Thin Blue Line flag is a modified American flag, with a blue stripe representing the officer and his or her courage when faced with insurmountable odds. The black background was designed as a reminder of fallen officers.

The flag presented to Lancaster is encased in a 20-by-32-inch finished hickory frame made by Joseph Almand, husband of Skowhegan Town Manager Christine Almand. The flag is accompanied by patches from the Skowhegan Police Department and the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office, with a small metal plaque saying: “Presented to the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office by the Skowhegan Police Department and town of Skowhegan. This flag was flown high above the streets of Skowhegan on May 7, 2018 in memory of Cpl. Eugene Cole. End of watch, April 25, 2018.”

“We did fly the Thin Blue Line flags during the Cpl. Cole situation, all the way to his funeral,” Christine Almand said earlier in the day Tuesday. “We flew the flags here, and this is one of the flags that was actually flown on the streets. The idea was from the police chief.”

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 intentional or knowing murder. He since has pleaded not guilty and faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted. Court proceedings have been moved to Cumberland County because of news media attention in central Maine after the shooting.

Williams claimed he “got the drop” on the officer and shot him in the head after he had tripped backward and fallen to the ground during an arrest in Norridgewock, according to newly unsealed court documents. Williams commented that he “eliminated” Cpl. Cole, Maine State Police Detective Jason Andrews wrote in an affidavit asking the court for a search warrant after a four-day manhunt ended with the suspect’s arrest in Fairfield.

Earlier in the meeting Tuesday evening, Matthew Collins from Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve presented Bucknam with the Patriotic Employer Award, for allowing officers to serve in the National Guard and Reserve and be able to keep their jobs as police officers.

Bucknam was nominated for the award by Skowhegan police Officer Katelyn Nichols, who is serving in the military.

ESGR is the lead Defense Department program promoting cooperation and understanding between civilian employers and their National Guard and Reserve employees.

The board also welcomed newly elected members Vanessa York and Roger Staples. Paul York and Gene Rouse were nominated chairman and vice chairman in other action Tuesday evening.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

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