Maine Department of Transportation workers, spectators and dignitaries gather in July 2011 for a ceremony opening a $22 million bridge in Norridgewock. The Legislature has passed a bill calling for naming it the Cpl. Eugene Cole Memorial Bridge, in honor of a omerset County sheriff’s deputy who was killed April 25 while on duty. (Jeff Pouland/Morning Sentinel)
The Maine House of Representatives and the Maine Senate both have approved a bill to name the bridge over the Kennebec River in Norridgewock after slain Somerset County sheriff’s deputy Eugene Cole.
The bill proposing to name the bridge the Corporal Eugene Cole Memorial Bridge now heads to Gov. Paul LePage’s desk for his consideration. The governor has 10 days to sign the bill, veto it or let it become law without his signature.
Cole was shot and killed during the early morning of April 25 while on patrol in Norridgewock, where he lived. The shooting took place just minutes after Cole apparently stopped to check on John D. Williams, who had duffel bags and a bulletproof vest after being dropped off at a driveway around 1 a.m.
Williams, 29, was arrested in Fairfield after a massive four-day manhunt by state, local and federal authorities. He made his first court appearance April 30 and was charged with murder. He later pleaded not guilty to the charge.
Court documents state Williams confessed to a friend minutes after killing Cole. Williams is awaiting trial in Cumberland County and will face 25 years to life in prison if he is found guilty.
Cole’s death was the first police officer shooting death in Maine in nearly 30 years.
Republican Rep. Brad Farrin, of Norridgewock, submitted the bill to name the bridge for Cole. The Norridgewock Board of Selectmen unanimously approved the measure as well. Town Manager Richard LaBelle said the town was approached by Somerset County Sheriff Dale Lancaster about renaming the bridge after Cole. LaBelle said Lancaster asked him and the Board of Selectmen to draft a letter showing full support of the name change.
Norridgewock also declared April 25 as Corporal Eugene Cole Day.
The proclamation from selectmen states that Cole was “a dedicated member of our community and shall be remembered from this day forward for his service and sacrifice. This day shall be a day recognized in the Town of Norridgewock by performing good works, service to the community, and selfless acts.”
Cpl. David Cole, Eugene Cole’s son and a deputy who soon will become a detective with the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office, said he is proud to have the bridge dedicated to his late father.
“I’m honored,” he said by the bridge Thursday. “My family is honored that they’re remembering my father this way.”
Lancaster added that the heavily traveled bridge now will bear the name of his fallen comrade.
“Every time people go across the bridge, they will remember the sacrifice that — not only the ultimate sacrifice — that Cpl. Eugene Cole gave, but … they’ll also remember the sacrifice of working with the community,” specifically the residents of Norridgewock but also the residents of the state of Maine, Lancaster said.
After 10 years of planning, three years of construction and spending about $22 million, the first cars and trucks drove across the new bridge spanning the Kennebec River in July 2011. It replaced the old four-arch bridge that authorities said was no longer safe.
When it was completed, the concrete bridge was the second of its design in the United States. It is the eighth bridge at that site in the last 200 years to be used for general public transportation.