NORRIDGEWOCK (NEWS CENTER Maine) — As the manhunt continues for the murderer of Deputy Cpl. Eugene Cole, fellow law enforcement and local residents are praising the fallen officer for being a good friend and "a good cop."
Cpl. Cole was shot to death in Norridgewock early Wednesday morning, and police say John Williams is the killer. Dozens of officers, from Somerset County, local departments, Maine State Police, game wardens, New Hampshire State Police and the FBI have been searching woods and houses, looking for Williams.
People in and around the town said Thursday that Cole was highly respected and well-liked. He became a deputy in his late 40s after working for years in a different career. His son, David, was already a deputy in the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office. At the time of Gene Cole’s death, both father and son were corporals in the department.
Devan Rittell remembers Cole from his time working on the ambulance and meeting the deputy at an accident or crime scenes: "He was a great officer, cared about his community, about the well being of others. He was compassionate but also knew how to give tough love."
Somerset County Chief Deputy Jim Ross said Cole was both a good officer and a close friend, with excellent relationships with the public.
"Gene would give his personal cell phone to people to call," Chief Deputy Ross said. "He had a grapevine of information I’ve not seen in many law enforcement officers. People truly respected Gene, they trusted him, and they knew if he said he would do something or not do something, he was a man of his word."
Cole also had a long family tie to the sheriff's department. Ross said Cole’s uncle, Charlie Baker, was a deputy with the department who also died on duty, in a car accident in 1999.