AUBURN — A 4 1/2-hour standoff that involved Auburn police and the state's Police Tactical Team ended peacefully Monday when Randolph Nutter was taken into custody.
Nutter, 45, of Mechanic Falls, was in custody at the Androscoggin County Jail as of Monday night.
Around 11 a.m. yesterday, Auburn police were dispatched to the parking lot of Walmart at 100 Mount Auburn Ave. after receiving a report that a man had snatched a purse from a 68-year-old woman.
"It was initially reported that the suspect displayed a gun and took off on foot towards BJ’s Wholesale Club where he got into a silver Jeep and drove away," Auburn Police said in a release.
The vehicle was later found by officer Andrew Shute in the parking lot of Shaw's supermarket on Center Street. The standoff began when Shute made contact with Nutter and he refused to get out of the Jeep.
At that time, "officers developed additional information that the man was suicidal and armed with a handgun," according to police.
Officers set up a secure perimeter around Nutter's vehicle and evacuated Shaw's Plaza.
The Maine State Police Tactical Team and Crisis Negotiation Team responded to assist Auburn Police.
At around 12:30 p.m., members of the State Police Tactical Team, with shields raised, were getting in place to assist Auburn police, including stationing a rifleman on the roof at the nearby JC Penney store.
Police evacuated the parking lot at the Auburn Mall across from where the Cherokee was parked and trained long guns and handguns on Nutter and his car.
All of the stores in the Shaw's plaza were evacuated. JC Penney was also evacuated, as was much of the mall building before its doors were locked. Most of the customers left the mall as soon as they were informed of the standoff, but many of the employees remained in the mall's common areas.
George's Pizza, across Center Street from the Shaw's parking lot, was also evacuated. Additionally, police closed down Center Street during the standoff.
Until about 1 p.m. police were attempting to talk to Nutter through a bullhorn, and could be heard repeating: “Roll down your window. Throw out your keys. Show your hands. We can end this peacefully. Do so now.”
They were also offering "to get you the help you're asking for."
During the standoff, Kayt DeMerchant posted on the Sun Journal's Facebook page: "I was caught right in the middle of this. The police are doing an excellent job. They have closed Shaw's and got me to my car safely and out of the parking lot quickly. I am so glad I did not have my kids with me. Scary, scary stuff!"
At 12:55, more than an hour after the standoff began, Nutter partially rolled his window down after police said they couldn't hear him very well. Minutes later, after he had tossed his keys out the window, he rolled the window back up. Police had asked him to stop using his cell phone.
Conversation between police and Nutter quieted about 1:05 p.m., and Nutter appeared to have stopped communicating with police through his car window.
The standoff ended around 3:30 p.m., when Nutter "agreed to surrender and was taken into custody without incident," according to the police statement. Nutter was initially charged with theft and was taken to the Androscoggin County Jail where his bail was set at $500.
An Airsoft handgun was seized from Nutter’s vehicle, the police statement said.
By 9 p.m., Nutter had been charged with a second offense: criminal threatening. His bail had been raised to $1,060.
According to Auburn Police Chief Phillip Crowell, police will conduct an internal after-action briefing to talk about their response to this incident.
During the standoff, Christine Simpson, 32, of Winthrop, identified herself to the media as someone who has known Nutter since they were children and said she talked to him “as this was all going down. He said he was surrounded by police,” Simpson said.
According to Simpson, Nutter is a mechanic who has raced cars at Oxford Plains Speedway.
Nutter has five speeding convictions and one conviction of operating under the influence in 2008, according to state Department of Motor Vehicles record.
Nutter also has several criminal convictions, including criminal trespass in 1990, violation of a protection order and violating conditions of release in 2007, according to state records.
The standoff created traffic jams in various spots around the Twin Cities.
During the standoff, the Veterans Bridge and northbound and southbound lanes of Center Street in front of Shaw's were closed to all traffic.
Police re-routed Center Street traffic around the back side of the Auburn Mall and Auburn Public Works crews set up barricades blocking access to the Shaw's and mall parking lots.
Because of the bridge closure, traffic was clogged along the Longley Memorial Bridge. At 3:30 p.m., a long line of cars could be seen running down Court Street in Auburn and Main Street in Lewiston.
Though Center Street and Veterans Bridge were reopened moments after Nutter was taken into custody, it was more than an hour before Lewiston Public Works announced that traffic was back to normal.