RUMFORD — Richard Korhonen was taking his dog for a walk Tuesday afternoon when he saw a Rumford police officer standing outside the apartment of Jessica Byrn-Francisco.

“I told him, ‘I don’t think she’s home,’ and he told me to call the police if I heard from her,” Korhonen said.

When Korhonen returned to his third-floor apartment at 77 Maine Ave., he heard two loud pops in quick succession from the backyard but didn’t think anything of it, he said.

He was getting ready to sit down in his living room when his neighbor, Glen DeRoche, knocked on his door and told him, “The cops just shot Jessie in the backyard.”

Korhonen rushed to his porch, which overlooks the back of the apartment complex, and saw Byrn-Francisco lying on her stomach and crying.

“There were four or five people standing around her to help turn her over, and when they got her on her back, I saw blood all over the snow,” Korhonen said.

Police chief Stacy Carter said Byrn-Francisco, 25, had called a crisis hotline late Tuesday afternoon threatening to commit suicide. The crisis center contacted police, Carter said, and Sgt. Tracey Higley of the Rumford Police Department and another officer were sent to the apartment complex to look into it.

Carter said police discovered Byrn-Francisco, wielding a knife, in the backyard of the three-story apartment complex. She attempted to rush Higley with her knife raised, Carter said, and Higley shot her twice.

She was taken by ambulance to Rumford Hospital and later was transferred by a LifeFlight medical helicopter to Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston where she remained in serious condition Wednesday.

Since the shooting, Higley has been placed on paid administrative leave, which is standard procedure, as the Maine Attorney General’s Office investigates the shooting, Carter said.

Korhonen, who has known Byrn-Francisco for almost a year, said he was shocked to hear that she had rushed at police with a knife.

“She was like a daughter to me,” Korhonen said. “She would come up and visit me, and sometimes I would go down and visit her. She always seemed to be in good spirits when we talked. She loved my dog, Shiva.”

Korhonen pointed to two chairs in his living room and said, “I’d sit in my chair, and she’d sit next to me, and we would just talk about our day.”

Though Korhonen did not speak to Byrn-Francisco on the day of the shooting, he said that she “didn’t seem herself” in the week leading up to the shooting.

“Something just seemed off about her when we would talk,” Korhonen said. “Usually, she’s cheerful when she talks to me, but she looked like she wasn’t feeling well. Sometimes she would tell me that life sucks, and I would tell her to cut it out and that if she needed help, she could come and talk to me.”

Candice Radcliff, who lives in the apartment building next to 77 Maine Ave., said she has known Byrn-Francisco for five years and that she had spoken to her the night before she was shot.

“Nothing seemed wrong with her when I talked to her,” Radcliff said. “We talked for a couple of minutes, and she just seemed tired, since it was late. I had no idea that she was struggling with anything. I don’t know if it was something personal or something different that pushed her over the edge.”

Radcliff added, “From what I understand, she was just depressed. She took too many pills and called the crisis hotline to tell them she was going to kill herself. I don’t know if she thought the cops would finish her off or what, but she was never violent or mean toward anyone, that I knew.”

Though Radcliff said she did not hear the shots fired, she heard the sirens from the police cars and the ambulance, and saw Byrn-Francisco being taken into the ambulance on a stretcher.

“When I saw Jessie on the stretcher, I started freaking out,” Radcliff said. “I asked the cops, ‘What the hell is going on?’”

Radcliff said that since the shooting, she has talked with other people who knew Byrn-Francisco and learned that she had had suicidal tendencies and used to cut herself.

“When she was around me, she seemed fine,” Radcliff said. “I always saw her as sociable and outgoing. I guess I just don’t understand what was going on with her. I know she didn’t have any immediate family in the area. She lived alone in her apartment.”

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