TRENTON, Maine — No charges are expected at this time in the death of Hancock County Sheriff's Deputy Luke Gross.
Gross, 44, died after he was hit by a vehicle on Route 3 in Trenton early Thursday morning.
The Maine State Police Department is the lead agency in the investigation. In Friday's release, Maine Department of Public Safety spokesperson Shannon Moss offered more insight into the circumstances of Gross's death.
Moss said Gross was called to the scene of a crash on Route 3, near the Ellsworth-Trenton town line, around 4:30 a.m.. When he arrived, he found that the driver of the crashed vehicle had fled the scene.
Gross parked his cruiser in the westbound breakdown lane with his emergency lights activated to investigate the crash and, according to Moss, he was "wearing a high visibility traffic vest" when he got out of his cruiser.
Gross was picking up debris from the road when he was hit from behind by a small pickup truck around 5:15 a.m., according to Moss. He died from his injuries.
The driver of the pickup truck has been fully cooperative with the Maine State Police Department's investigation, Moss said. No charges are expected at this time, according to Moss, and officials have not released the driver's identity.
Around 9 a.m. the driver of the crashed vehicle who fled the scene in Trenton -- Thorin Smith, 20, of Bar Harbor -- was located a short distance away on Route 3. Moss said he was sleeping in his car when Maine State Police officials found him.
Smith was charged with leaving the scene of an accident, illegal use of drug paraphernalia and illegal possession of alcohol by a minor, according to officials.
Gross is the 88th law enforcement officer to die in the line of duty here in Maine.
This is the Hancock County Sheriff's Department third line of duty death and the first in almost 100 years. In 1911, Sheriff John Webster and Deputy Sheriff Edwin Finn drowned after their boat capsized in Green Lake.
Hancock County Sheriff Scott Kane held a media availability Thursday afternoon, during which he read a statement but did not take questions.
Kane said Gross leaves behind his wife, Lauren, who he had been married to for 15 years, as well as two children -- a son and a daughter.
"He loved them dearly and was active in all their lives," Kane said.
Gross began his career working for the Winthrop and Sabattus Police Departments before joining the Hancock County Sheriff's Office in 2003. Kane said Gross was originally from Bucksport and "wanted to come home." He went on to serve 18 years in the department.
In addition to serving as a patrol deputy, Kane said Gross was also a D.A.R.E officer and worked as a camp counselor for many years at Camp POSTCARD (Police Officers Striving To Create And Reinforce Dreams). He also served on the school board in Hancock, where his kids attend school.
"Luke had a passion for working [with] and helping young people," Kane said. "Luke was at home working in schools and being with kids. He was a role model and was highly respected."
Gross was a driving force in the sheriff's office's fundraisers, from which all of the funds are used to buy holiday gifts and assist those in need in Hancock County, according to Kane.
"Luke always had a smile and he was a joy to be around. He had an outgoing personality and was always willing to lend a hand and help out," Kane said while choking back tears. "We will miss Luke greatly. He was a great addition to our family at the sheriff's office and a credit to his profession. The world needs more like Luke in law enforcement and in our communities."
Gov. Janet Mills issued the following statement regarding Gross's death:
“Today, we mourn the loss of Deputy Gross, a member of Maine’s law enforcement community killed in the line of duty. My heart goes out to his friends, family, and fellow officers. May we always remember that our law enforcement officers are dedicated public servants who risk their own lives every day to protect the safety of Maine people. Deputy Gross ended his watch protecting our great state, and his service and sacrifice will not be forgotten. On behalf of the people of Maine, I extend our condolences to his family, loved ones, and colleagues around the state.”
Mills will direct that U.S. flags in Maine be lowered to half-staff on the day of Deputy Gross’ service, once it's announced.