MEXICO — Maine State Police identified the man who died Sunday evening following a shootout and standoff with police as Steven R. Piirainen, 52, of Paris, Maine Department of Public Safety Spokesman Steve McCausland said. 

McCausland said the two officers who fired at Piirainen were Maine State Police Trooper Paul Casey and Mexico reserve officer Dean Benson. Both have been placed on administrative leave with pay, which is standard with all police shootings, he said.

McCausland said that because police were involved in the shooting, the Attorney General’s Office will investigate.

The standoff, which lasted several hours, began Sunday afternoon after Piirainen stole a pickup truck in Paris and led police officers on a nearly 40-mile chase north to Main Street in Mexico.

The state police tactical team confirmed that Piirainen was found dead inside the vehicle outside of the Circle K store and gas station.

For several hours Sunday evening, the inhabitants of the buildings surrounding the Circle K said they felt like prisoners in their homes while the sound of gunshots and sirens blared outside.

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Amanda Oliver said she witnessed the entire standoff from her window on the third floor of her apartment building.

“I saw a white truck come zooming down Main Street around 6:15 (p.m.) or so before stopping right in front of my building,” Oliver said. “There were a ton of police cars following behind him that stopped near the Citgo gas station next to the Circle K. That’s when I heard the gunshots going off.”

Oliver said she “hit the floor,” but after the sound of gunshots had stopped, she peeked out the window again.

“I could see the truck from the window in my building,” Oliver said. “It was parked slanted almost underneath my window. I could see that the man in the truck had blood on his hands and neck. There were bullet holes in the back window, and the man in the truck was just waving his hand out the window. I couldn’t tell if he was trying to flag down the cops or something else.”

Larry Wilder and Alicia Hagen, who live in the building next to Oliver at the corner of Main Street and Roxbury Road, said they received a call from Hagen’s mother just before the gunshots were fired, warning of police cars chasing a truck down Main Street.

“She told me, ‘You better get the kids inside, because there’s a car chase going on in Mexico,’” Hagen said. “I had barely reached the front steps of my house when I saw the truck come speeding up Main Street. He slammed on his brakes across the street from the Circle K.”

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She said, “I got my kids inside just as the gunshots were going off.”

Wilder said that for a long time, he and Hagen were only concerned with keeping their children safe in the back of the house.

“We had no idea what was going on after the shots were fired,” Wilder said. “We just wanted to make sure the kids were safe and away from danger. After a little while, we peeked out the window to see.”

Wilder said he noticed the front tires of Piirainen’s truck were both flat, which Hagen confirmed.

“I heard that they had set up spike strips in front of Labonville” store, Hagen said.

As the minutes following the shootout turned into hours, Oliver said Piirainen suddenly put his truck into drive and began driving toward the Circle K gas pumps.

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“As soon as I saw him moving toward the gas pumps, I threw my 2-year-old son toward my neighbor in the back of the apartment building, just in case there was an explosion,” Oliver said. “We ran to the back of the building and hid.”

Hagen said the truck hit the column next to the gas pump and continued to accelerate, sending plumes of white smoke into the air.

“It looked like after he hit the column, he continued to accelerate,” Hagen said. “I don’t know if he was trying to keep moving forward into the gas pump and take out as many people as possible, but we all ran to the back of the house again. I thought the entire station was going to explode.”

After a while, Hagen said she and Wilder looked out the window again and noticed the truck had stopped moving.

Oliver said she could hear police officers yelling through a megaphone for the suspect to stand down and throw his weapon out the window.

“A few hours went by, and nothing was happening,” Oliver said.

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Hagen said that around 11 p.m., she saw police send a “robot” to the suspect’s truck.

“It looked almost like the robot Johnny Number Five from the movie ‘Short Circuit,’” Hagen said. “It stayed there for a bit, and after that, some sort of SWAT vehicle pulled up next to the passenger side of the truck.”

After the standoff was over, Oliver said she noticed that at least three police cars had damage to their side panels.

“I’m assuming the guy in the truck barreled past the cars and knocked them aside,” Oliver said.

Resident Heather Mae Conley said that she heard “around 10 gunshots fired.”

“I could see the whole thing from my window,” Conley said. “From what I could see, the man in the truck started firing first, and the police fired back.”

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Later, after the shootout ended, Conley said she could “see the guy in the truck slouched over toward the passenger side seat. I figured that he was dead at that point, but after a while, he stepped on the gas and drove right toward the gas pumps.”

Oliver, Wilder and Hagen said they tried going to sleep after the standoff had ended, but found themselves unable to do so.

Conley said she tried going to bed, but kept thinking that “bullets were going to come flying through my house.”

“It just hit too close to home,” Conley said. “The standoff is over, but if you look out the window, you can still see the police tape wrapped around the gas pumps. It’s still scary to think about.”

Officers with the Norway, Rumford and Paris police departments declined to comment on the case, deferring comment to the state police, who are leading the investigation. Officers with the Mexico Police Department could not be reached for comment.

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