A man was hospitalized after he claimed he was suicidal and soaked himself in gasoline, then lead police from Lewiston and Auburn on a hunt through the woods near Lake Auburn Tuesday night.

Police received a call from the man’s girlfriend around 8 p.m. Tuesday, stating that she had found a suicide note he had written at their Lewiston home, Lewiston police Sgt. Danny LaChance said. The couple had been fighting frequently for several days, according to police. Over the phone, the man told his girlfriend that he had doused himself in gasoline and was driving around Lake Auburn, LaChance said.  

Police declined to give the names of the man or his girlfriend Tuesday night.

Lewiston police went to the woman’s house, but she quickly left to look for her distraught boyfriend. The search for the potentially suicidal man became a “collaborative effort” between the Lewiston and Auburn police departments, LaChance said, as Lewiston officers followed the woman across the Androscoggin River and into Auburn.

Police located the man and his vehicle on Lake Shore Drive near the Lake Auburn basin. Despite wearing gasoline-soaked clothing, the man had gotten out of his car to smoke a cigarette while he spoke to his girlfriend on the phone, LaChance said. When he saw police approach, he took off running into the woods in pitch blackness, Lewiston Police officer David M. Levesque said.

Police and Auburn Fire Department staff closed off roads leading to the area and called for an Auburn K-9 search dog. Following the scent of gasoline for 10 minutes, the dog lead police to the man, who was hiding in a tree, LaChance said.

After several minutes, the man climbed out of the tree and was taken into police custody. He threw a cigarette lighter on the ground before entering a Lewiston police cruiser, which took him to St. Mary’s Regional Hospital in Lewiston for evaluation, Levesque said.

Police found an open tank of seeping propane in the man’s car, which he had also doused with gasoline, LaChance said.

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