Former mill worker surrenders after 9-hour standoff in Jay

JAY — A former Verso mill worker who held the mill manager hostage for ten hours Wednesday surrendered peacefully at 6:30 p.m. and was taken to the Franklin County jail, Maine State Police said.

Ann Bryant/Sun Journal

A team of Maine State Police tactical officers are taken by pickup truck into the Verso paper mill in Jay on Wednesday. The officers were responding to a standoff and hostage situation at the mill. 

submitted photo

Frank Smith

Amber Waterman/Sun Journal

Maine State Police walk back to their vehicles shortly after the peaceful conclusion at 6:30 p.m. of a standoff at the Verso Androscoggin Mill in Jay.

Amber Waterman/Sun Journal

Maine State Police Lt. Walter Grzyb addresses the media outside the Verso Androscoggin Mill in Jay after the peaceful conclusion to a police standoff with a former employee who held the mill manager at gunpoint for more than six hours.

Jose Leiva/Sun Journal

A Verso Androscoggin Mill security guard, left, escorts people off the site when they were refused access to the mill during the standoff at the mill in Jay on Wednesday. The standoff ended peacefully after about nine hours.

Jose Leiva/Sun Journal

Log and chemical trucks line the side of Riley Road in Jay, unable to deliver their products because of a hostage situation at the Verso Androscoggin Mill on Wednesday.

Ann Bryant/Photo

A member of the Maine State Police Tactical Team gets ready to join a group of fellow officers who were dealing with a standoff situation at the Verso paper mill in Jay on Wednesday.

Ann Bryant/Sun Journal

Police close access to the Verso paper mill in Jay on Wednesday as they respond to a standoff situation at the mill's administration building.

Terry Karkos/Sun Journal

Log and wood-chip truck drivers walk along Riley Road on Wednesday morning while lined up outside the Verso paper mill in Jay. A standoff and hostage situation inside the mill forced its lockdown, leaving truckers and chemical delivery truck drivers unable to get in.

Frank Smith, 49, of Norridgewock was charged with creating a police standoff and kidnapping. Police said he was armed with a shotgun when he stormed the administrative building at about 8:30 a.m.

Sources inside the mill said Smith was fired six months ago for spraying a co-worker in the face with a hose.

Police said Smith held Mill Manager Marc Connor, 43, at gunpoint inside his office in the administration building of the mill off Riley Road from about 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

The hostage release came after Smith spoke for several hours with Maine State Police negotiators, who responded to the scene along with the State Police Tactical Team, according to a release issued by the State Police at about 4:30 p.m.

The mill's communication manager, Cherilee Budrick, told reporters gathered outside the main gate Wednesday morning that all of the mill's employees were safe.

Those working the first shift at the mill were kept inside while workers set to start the second shift at 5:30 p.m. were asked to report to Murray Hall in Livermore.

After Smith surrendered, first-shift workers were released and second-shifters were allowed to enter the mill. State police said the workers were never in direct danger during the standoff.

"That was one of the major concerns throughout the day," Maine State Police Lt. Walter Grzyb said. "They were safe. They were locked down. We had a very good perimeter set up that detained the suspect to one area."

The mill was in lockdown during the standoff but work continued, although trucks delivering pulp and wood chips were not allowed to enter the grounds and were lining up. Some waited several hours before leaving with their loads.

Budrick told reporters earlier in the day that the incident was isolated to the administration building and that Maine State Police were handling the situation.

A source told the Sun Journal that the ordeal started when Smith snuck into the mill through the wood gate – where the trucks come in for deliveries – and then busted down the admin building door, first taking a secretary hostage and then releasing her when the mill manager came in

A pickup truck loaded with several police officers in military-like uniforms and carrying assault firearms entered the mill's front gate at about 10:15 a.m., according to a reporter on the scene.

Local schools also were put under lockdown and students were released early.

At least two reporters – one from the Sun Journal and one from WGME – lost access to their vehicles when State Police widenened the perimeter after the reporters had parked.

The reporters were not able to retrieve their vehicles until the standoff was over.

Shortly before 7 p.m., Grzyb and Jay police Chief Larry White addressed the knot of reporters just outside the perimeter, advising them that it was over.

"It's been a long day," White said.

Jose Leiva/Sun Journal

Delivery trucks are left stranded at a security checkpoint provided by the Maine Warden Service on Riley Road in Jay. Truckers were unable to deliver their products because of a hostage situation at the Verso Androscoggin Mill on Wednesday.

Jose Leiva/Sun Journal

Log and chemical trucks line the roadside of Riley Road in Jay, unable to deliver their products because of a hostage situation at the Verso Androscoggin Mill on Wednesday.

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Comments

Licia Kuenning's picture

But what were his demands?

This article cries out for the missing information: what were Frank Smith's demands? What was he trying to accomplish? What were he and the police negotiating about all those hours. There must have been something

Kyla Greenwood's picture

I feel bad for the kids in

I feel bad for the kids in the Jay/Livermore Falls schools who have had to be in lock down all day because of this.

Hope everyone makes it out

Hope everyone makes it out alright.

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