Bo Thompson is apologetic about his criminal past, and working on a life free of addiction.
It’s a familiar story.
Norman "Bo" Thompson started smoking cocaine
when he was 15. He preferred it to the Ritalin doctors prescribed for his
His urge for the illicit drug grew
greater. Soon he was addicted.
After a while, his drug habit cost him
more than he could make recycling junk cars or working at a chicken
He broke into homes and cars and stole
electronics he could sell for extra cash.
The drug also clouded his judgment.
He once toted away computers, a DVD
player, a TV and a stereo in a wheelbarrow.
One time, he needed a ride. So he drove
off in a game warden’s truck.
Another time, he jumped with a sprained ankle off a
third-floor balcony to escape police. The leap — captured by a Sun Journal photographer — gained
him national notoriety after the photographer tackled him.
“I don’t know why I jumped. I just
jumped,” he said in an interview last week.
It was at this point that his familiar story took an unfamiliar turn.
When Thompson was high, the thought of
consequences didn’t slow him down. They never entered his mind.
Six days after his publicized leap, he lost his house key and climbed through a window at his mother's Mexico home where he was living with her and his 10-year-old daughter.
For his final act on cocaine, he holed
up in that house. His daughter was at school and his mother was away at an
After a neighbor called 911, Thompson held police at bay for more than 14
hours, refusing their pleas through a megaphone for Thompson to surrender. He wouldn't answer the phone
when they called.
He was afraid he’d be shot, remembering an incident weeks earlier when a Maine State Police trooper ended a standoff in nearby Rumford by shooting a man dead who was wielding knives. Unlike that man, Thompson was unarmed.
He said he continued
getting high even as the state's tactical team was deployed and police lobbed tear gas canisters and Mace-like chemicals into the house, followed by "flash-bang grenades."
He had retreated to a crawl space under
the attached shed. As the deployed tactical team finally packed up to
leave, he was sniffed out of his hiding place by a police dog.
Thompson was smoking a cigarette.
Too little jail time
That was then — for most of his 36
He had spent the last 19 months of that time in
jail awaiting trial on roughly two dozen charges spanning three
In May, he pleaded guilty to about half of them.
A judge sentenced him to 15 years, suspending all but the time he'd already served awaiting trial. Plus, he would spend the next five
years reporting to a probation officer. And he was ordered to pay restitution.
At his sentencing, his attorney, Donald Hornblower, said his client was eager to start life anew. "I've never seen Mr. Thompson so alert," Hornblower told the judge. "Norman is glad he's here, taking responsibility."
As long as he stayed out of trouble, Thompson
was free to go.
He says now that he wishes the courts
had locked him up long ago.
He had needed help to overcome his addiction, like the kind of help he’s
getting now, but judges released him without bail.
“They let me out of jail and I was
like, they can’t be lettin’ me out of jail. You know what I
mean? But they let me out.”
He couldn’t be trusted to stay out of
trouble. Thompson knew that. Why couldn’t the courts see it?
He now lives in a Portland apartment,
collecting Social Security to help support himself.
The only furniture in his small living
room — three chairs — are borrowed from his daughter’s
playroom at his mother's house in Mexico. The only personal
effects are a small framed photo of his daughter, a Father's Day card and a trophy from a "smash-up" derby.
His monthly paycheck just covers the
rent, he says.
He hates the city. But it’s close to
the agencies he must visit for court-ordered services.
His anger management group is teaching
him to solve problems without fighting or getting high. Art therapy gives him an outlet to
express himself in constructive ways. And there’s substance abuse counseling, something he wishes he'd gotten long ago.
While awaiting trial in Oxford County
Jail, Thompson was committed to Maine’s psychiatric hospital for
observation. There, he was diagnosed as bipolar, he said, characterized by
extreme ups and downs.
He’s now on medication for that. Thompson
takes so many pills each day that they won’t fit in a single weekly
pill box. He has two green plastic containers — one for
morning, the other for night — bound together with rubber bands.
His hair has grown out from the shaved
head he sported during his crime spree, a fashion he favored when he didn’t know where he would spend
his next night. He’s put weight on his small frame.
He says he's turned his life around. He knows it's a leap of faith.
“I don’t think I’ll get in
trouble again. I’m all set. I got too much to lose.”
He's got his driver’s license back. He's sober and he has a place of his own.
But he has no job.
That means he has no spare money to spend on his daughter who, along with his mother, visits him in Portland.
“Money came easy when you’re doing
drugs,” he says. ”You’re just so high, you don’t care … It didn’t
He reflects on his actions while he was high.
“How stupid can you be to jump off
the third floor, you know? I wouldn’t do it now. I wouldn’t jump
out this window."
He’s on the second floor.
"I wouldn’t do
it. Not in a million years.”
His medications keep his impulses in check, Thompson said. And, his age is catching up with him.
“I think I’m getting old an’ I
got to retire from trouble.” He laughs. “I’m 36 an’ I can’t
handle it no more. That standoff was the last thing I wanted to do.”
While in jail, he met older prisoners.
“I don’t wanna be them sittin’ in
jail when I’m 50.” Instead, he sees himself at a resort enjoying
the comforts of a recreational camper.
He plans to buy another tow truck. Get
back in business. Start making money again.