Attorney Pamela Ames of Waterville speaks Jan. 3, 2020, on behalf of her client, Richard Murray-Burns, during his first appearance in court in Skowhegan. Murray-Burns pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges of aggravated attempted murder and will be sentenced at a later date. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel file

SKOWHEGAN — A Hartland man has pleaded guilty to 13 charges from a December 2019 shootout with police that stemmed from the report of shoplifting at the Waterville Walmart, which includes 10 counts of aggravated attempted murder.

During the plea hearing Wednesday at the Somerset County District Court, the district attorney described the 2019 shootout involving Richard Murray-Burns as an “absolutely terrifying” situation for the law enforcement officers who responded to the call.

“Thankfully it doesn’t happen that often but when it does, it’s absolutely terrifying,” said Maeghan Maloney, district attorney for Kennebec and Somerset counties. “This was a shoplifting call; there was nothing to indicate that this was going to turn into something like the serious event that it was.”

Murray-Burns, 31, appeared in court on Wednesday and pleaded guilty to 13 charges, including 10 counts of aggravated attempted murder and single counts of failure to stop for an officer, theft by unauthorized taking and robbery — down from an initial 19-count indictment. He avoids a jury trial by entering the pleas.

The most severe charge, aggravated attempted murder, carries a potential life sentence. Because the defense and prosecution could not come to an agreement, Murray-Burns will be sentenced in November.

Murray-Burns arrived in the courtroom, clad in shackles. His mother sat behind him, observing the hearing proceeded over by Justice Bruce Mallonee. Prosecutors presented evidence gathered from the case, which spanned multiple towns and two counties, ultimately ending in Canaan in Somerset County. Evidence gathered from police included dashboard cameras, body cameras and eyewitness accounts.

Across the aisle were several law enforcement officers, many who were involved in the incident on Dec. 22, 2019.

“The state is seeking a life sentence in this case and that’s why we don’t have an agreement,” Maloney said. “The state is asking for a life sentence and the defense will ask for whatever they decide on. We don’t know what that will be.”

Maloney detailed the events that played out during the high-speed chase in 2019, which ended in multiple shots being fired by both law enforcement and Murray-Burns, who was operating a silver Honda Civic, distinguishable to officers by its black bumper.

The district attorney said on Wednesday that he was armed with a plate carrier, an AR-15-style .223-caliber rifle with a 60-round magazine, a .45-caliber pistol and a loaded clip for the pistol.

Maloney described the plate carrier as a “heavy-duty body armor that can withstand a high velocity rifle round” and is “far stronger” than what police officers wear.

“It’s more akin to what military officers would wear,” Maloney said. “It’s extremely heavy duty and it did, in fact, stop bullets that were fired at the vehicle.”

Though Maloney could not speak for Murray-Burns’ attorney, who offered no comments following the hearing, she said that the evidence gathered by law enforcement made for a “strong case.”

The shootout began after Officer Timothy Hinton of the Waterville Police Department attempted to pull over a vehicle operated by Murray-Burns on Main Street in Waterville to question him on a nearby shoplifting complaint at the Waterville Walmart.

Murray-Burns asked the officer at the time if he could move his vehicle into a nearby parking lot and Hinton told him to remain where he was. He then took off in his vehicle and the officer heard a “loud thump” and realized that he was being fired at.

“Hinton’s vehicle took multiple hits from Murray-Burns,” Maloney said.

Hinton was struck in the left arm during this initial gunfire but continued to pursue the vehicle on Ohio Hill Road, where there was more gunfire. Hinton was struck a second time in his right arm during this exchange.

Murray-Burns took off once again, with Hinton still pursuing him. The officer was soon ordered to stop pursuing the suspect. In total, Hinton’s vehicle sustained 16 bullet strikes, Maloney said.

Then, Maine State Police Trooper Daniel Murray saw the vehicle after listening to radio traffic and noticed that the vehicle’s rear windshield had been damaged by the gunfire.

Murray witnessed Murray-Burns raise a rifle-type weapon and started firing shots and the officers allowed him to speed off to put some space between the vehicles.

The state police trooper “watched Murray-Burns go over the Clinton Bridge and then watched him stop and fired more shots, disabling Trooper Murray’s vehicle,” Maloney said.

From there, she said that another officer, Ken MacMaster of the Office of State Fire Marshal, joined in on the pursuit and witnessed Murray-Burns “pump the brakes” and approach an officer, demanding the officer exit his vehicle because he “didn’t want to do something horrible.”

Murray-Burns fled again and officers believed he had “been lain in wait,” Maloney added. A column of law enforcement officers, led by Winslow Police Department, took over from here. Included in this group were Stephen Armiger and Racean Wood from the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office; MacMaster; state Troopers Eric Sucy, Rick Moody, Daniel Murray and Garret Booth; and Officer Cameron Huggins of Winslow Police Department.

Given the evidence, including the heavy-duty body armor, Maloney concluded that these all showed signs of premeditation and officers were at “all times acting in performance of their duties.”

Murray-Burns was shot multiple times during the shootout, which happened at the intersections of Routes 23 and 2 in Canaan. He was treated at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor and then released, charged and taken to Somerset County Jail in East Madison, where he will remain held without bail until his sentencing.

Hinton was hospitalized at MaineGeneral Medical Center’s Thayer Center for Health in Waterville to be treated for multiple gunshot wounds and was released shortly after being admitted.

Hinton did not offer comments on Thursday about the incident. After the hearing, Waterville police Chief Joseph Massey said that while he wouldn’t go into the particulars of this case, it’s had a tremendous impact on his department.

“Going into today’s hearing brought us one step closer to closure for the officers involved and their families,” Massey said. “It’s been a long time since the incident and Officer Hinton has come a long way. This is one step closer to them getting final closure and holding Murray-Burns responsible to his actions.”

He added that Hinton has “recovered well” from his injuries.

The district attorney added that every single officer who was involved in the incident “has a charge specifically for the assault on that officer.”

“(Murray-Burns’ actions) just strikes fear is what it does,” Maloney said. “You realize that as a law enforcement officer, every single day that you go to work your life could be in jeopardy.”

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