Colby College junior Rose Clayton was driving on I-295 Tuesday when the car in front of her abruptly pulled over, got out and pointed a gun at her. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

As Rose Clayton pulled off Interstate 295 around 10 a.m. Tuesday, the gray car in front of her on Exit 15 stopped abruptly on the shoulder. In an instant, a stocky, bald man wearing a gray shirt and gray pants got out of the car and pointed a gun at her.

“He had both arms up pointing a pistol at me, with one eye closed. He was aiming to shoot,” said Clayton, 21. Many people in her family hunt, she said, so she recognized the stance. “Something in my body and mind registered that he was going to shoot at me if I didn’t do something very, very fast.”

Clayton, a Colby College junior from Vermont, sped away, hoping he wouldn’t follow. She looked behind her only long enough to see the man jump a guardrail and run into the woods. She called 911 and pulled into the parking lot of a nearby auto parts store. She didn’t want to stop anywhere unless other people were around.

“I went into complete fight-or-flight mode,” she said.

Frazzled, she tried to avoid getting back on the interstate. But she wasn’t familiar with the area and got turned around, ending up back on I-295.

Police cars now lined the southbound lanes and first responders were tending to a woman on the ground.


As she passed Exit 15 again, the man who had pointed the gun at her was standing in the middle of the road, waving his arms. But she didn’t see any officers around him, so she called 911 again.

When she made it to her appointment in Portland, she refreshed her phone again and again, looking for any information about what she had witnessed. Her boyfriend sent her screenshots of Twitter posts about the heavy police presence. Even then, she didn’t truly grasp how close she had come.

“I knew something had happened,” she said. “I knew in my head someone had been shot because I saw the woman on the ground.”

It wasn’t until Clayton got back to Waterville – avoiding the interstate on her way home – that she learned the man she’d seen had been identified by police as 34-year-old Joseph Eaton and was in custody and accused of fatally shooting four people in Bowdoin.

She soon learned that Sean Halsey, 51, of Bowdoinham, and his children, Justin Halsey, 29, and Paige Halsey, 25, had been shot on the interstate. She believes Paige Halsey was the woman she saw on the ground.

That afternoon, she talked to three different detectives about what she had seen, and those details were included in Eaton’s arrest affidavit that was released Thursday.


At least two other calls came into dispatch centers from the interstate, according to the affidavit. At 10:28 a.m., a woman called 911 to say that she was passing a car on I-295 when a man started shooting at her car.

At 10:48, a man called 911 and said a “suspicious” man was standing in the middle of the road at Exit 15 and waving his hands, and that he appeared to have blood on him, the affidavit states.

One minute later, Eaton was taken into custody.

Clayton said she finds it unsettling to see photos of Eaton on the news and Facebook, and she feels safer knowing he is in jail.

On Wednesday night, she dreamed that she was getting robbed and Eaton was there.

“It’s difficult to have such a clear vision of what this man looks like now that I know what he did to other people,” she said.

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