MEXICO – Roland Castonguay knew something wasn’t quite right Sunday afternoon when he saw Bartley Ray at the Wal-Mart firearms counter.

“His actions were just so strange. Maybe those feelings had a lot to do with my police training,” said Castonguay, a Jay resident who had served with the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office a decade ago.

Castonguay, now owner of a small business, went to the Mexico Wal-Mart to buy a box of .22-caliber bullets to use for target practice.

Ray was also there for bullets.

“He kept repeating that he wanted the shells while the clerk was helping another customer who was buying paintball gun supplies. He went behind the counter, looking for the shells,” Castonguay said. “All that caused me to take notice of him.”

The clerk told Ray that he couldn’t go behind the counter.

The clerk then took the box of shells from the locked cabinet, and waited on Ray, but when she asked him to pay for the .30-06 shells at her counter, the 28-year-old Portland man grabbed the box and ran for the door.

Although Castonguay, 39, thought Wal-Mart security would respond, he decided to race after Ray. Outside the store in the parking lot, he knocked Ray’s right arm just above the wrist, causing the shells to drop to the ground. Ray then fled to what turned out to be a stolen car and sped toward Auburn.

Castonguay returned the shells to Wal-Mart personnel, who had in the meantime recorded the license plate number of the stolen 2001 Volkswagen Jetta.

Mexico police Sgt. Roy Hodsdon, who with other local officers from Dixfield and Rumford, assisted with the subsequent chase after Ray. He believes Castonguay’s actions may have saved someone’s life.

“He could have saved my life or someone else’s. We owe him a debt of gratitude,” said Hodsdon. “He could easily have saved someone’s life.”

Unbeknown to Castonguay or others at the time, Ray had already stolen a rifle from a Wal-Mart in Auburn before attempting to steal the ammunition from the Mexico store, police said.

After the Mexico incident, Ray led law officers on a 40-mile chase that ended on Minot Avenue in Auburn, where the Jetta he was driving struck two other vehicles.

He was arrested on charges of theft by unauthorized taking or transfer and operating after revocation, felonies. He remains in Androscoggin County Jail on $10,000 cash bail.

Although other charges may be made because the chase took Ray through four jurisdictions, none has been brought by the Oxford County District Attorney’s Office, a representative said Thursday afternoon.

Castonguay and his wife, Carrie, have operated RCCM Cleaning Services Inc. since they bought Superior Carpet Cleaners of Rumford about six years ago.

As a father of two young daughters, Castonguay said owning a business gives him more time with his family than he had when he was in law enforcement.

But every now and then, like Sunday afternoon, his law enforcement training kicks in.

Castonguay said people have asked him why he took off after Ray.

“You read about stuff in the news, and I had a good chance to take him away,” he said.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.