AUBURN — A Minot man facing trial for burning down both his and his estranged wife's homes last year was sentenced to four years in prison Tuesday on charges stemming from an earlier police standoff during which he shot up his home.
Michael Callahan, 45, was sentenced on seven felony counts in the Dec. 21, 2012, incident at his Verrill Road home in Minot, where he kept an arsenal of guns.
Following a dispute with his wife and children that night, he armed himself with an AK-47 and held a Maine State Police tactical team at bay for more than six hours, spraying the surrounding landscape with bullets before surrendering.
Half a dozen uniformed Maine State Police troopers sat in the Androscoggin County Superior courtroom to witness the proceedings.
One of them, Sgt. Kyle Tilsley, shared with the judge the concern he felt for his fellow officers that night, imagining how he might have to tell their spouses that they had been wounded or killed during the standoff.
“I don't know what I would have done if I had lost someone that night,” he said.
Deputy District Attorney Andrew Robinson recounted with dramatic detail the experience of police who responded to a 911 call from Callahan's daughter, Elizabeth.
She, her brother, Thomas, and their mother, Laurie, fled the home after a drunken Callahan loaded his rifle. The family had argued with him that night after he discovered that Elizabeth had told the Department of Health and Human Services about her father's abusive actions.
He declared: “If they're coming for me, you're going to bury me.”
Troopers would have testified that they heard automatic gunfire and rounds “slicing through the air," Robinson said. There was little cover for the officers, who ducked behind trees or lay flat on the ground, he said.
A surveillance camera in the driveway was giving away their location to Callahan.
“They felt very exposed,” Robinson said.
Seeing no muzzle flash from his rifle, a trooper concluded Callahan was shooting through the walls of his house, Robinson said.
Trooper Paul Casey spotted Callahan in a window and returned fire. Callahan surrendered.
The cost of law enforcement response that night totaled nearly $32,000, Robinson said.
Callahan's wife, Laurie, read from prepared remarks, wiping tears from her cheeks as she excoriated her estranged husband for what she called his “selfish” behavior that night.
“You chose to protect yourself that night. I chose to protect Liz and Thomas,” she said.
She said the image of Michael Callahan standing in the doorway of their home, holding the rifle in one hand and waving with the other, remained imprinted on her memory. She piled the kids in her car and made them duck down behind the seats so they wouldn't be shot.
“We were terrified,” she said.
He fired at his brother, who had responded in an effort to help, along with friends, neighbors, fraternity brothers and first responders, Laurie Callahan said.
“You destroyed the family home,” she said, and turned it into a crime scene.
"You destroyed a family with decisions you made that night,” she said. “You destroyed relationships.”
She and their children now suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and have anxiety levels “through the roof,” she said. They are all in therapy from the trauma.
“It's like a bizarre movie script,” she said, as she wakes up thinking, “This can't be real. This can't be my life.”
Michael Callahan's daughter, Elizabeth, wrote a letter to him that was read by a victim advocate: “Your actions ruined my life as I knew it,” she wrote, adding that she still doesn't understand.
She had to sleep on a bed in their home that had bullets lodged in it from her father's gun, she wrote.
She was shunned at school because students would comment that her father was “crazy.” That, she wrote, “sure wasn't fun.”
She expects to focus on her goals and attain them despite his actions, she wrote.
"Your actions hurt me so much and I don't know what it will take for me to want a relationship with you again," she wrote. "All I know is how mad, how hurt and confused I am.”
Callahan sat staring at the table in front of him, his hands folded in his lap as he listened. He walks with a cane and takes a dozen pills a day to treat symptoms of multiple sclerosis, a thyroid condition, anxiety and depression, among other ailments.
His trial on three arson charges, as well as attempted murder and aggravated assault stemming from a May 24 rampage in Minot and Mechanic Falls, is scheduled for June.
He has pleaded not criminally responsible, claiming he was insane at the time of the events.
Callahan will serve the four-year sentence imposed Tuesday after his June trial. Meanwhile, he is being held at Androscoggin County Jail. Guns recovered from the house following the standoff will be given to Laurie Callahan.