POLAND — To Joe Cimino, the guy was “almost the perfect customer.”

Daniel Randall told Cimino and his staff at Top Gun that he wanted to buy a shotgun to teach his son to shoot. He asked advice about the best gun, the best ammo.

He walked out half an hour later with a camouflage-colored Mossberg Youth 500 and nine rounds of buckshot, both traditionally used for hunting.

Nothing about the former pastor last Thursday — even in hindsight — gave the store personnel any sense that he planned to go after his family.

According to police, Randall left Top Gun on Dec. 8, drove to his former home in Hebron, broke into the garage, killed his 27-year-old daughter, spray-painted messages like, “Anita, it’s all your fault,” then killed himself on the porch.

“Thank God the son wasn’t home,” said Cimino, who’s had a federal license to sell firearms for 40 years. “Thank God (his wife) wasn’t home. What set this guy off? That’s for a power higher than me to figure out.” 

Cimino built his gun shop on Route 26 in Poland 10 years ago. He added an indoor gun range five years ago, expanding it to 85 feet and making it the longest indoor gun range in Maine just last week.

He and staff watch potential customers on a host of cameras from the moment they pull into his parking lot. 

“We profile; we’re allowed to do that,” Cimino said. “We’re looking at you, your demeanor, how you’re handling yourself.”

Last week, two men came through the door and “reeked of pot.” 

“We threw them out — you’re not even supposed to be near the stuff with firearms,” he said. “Yesterday at 5:15, we had four gentlemen come in here. They were Middle Eastern, I profiled them; they were carrying a firearm, (an) AK-47, the preferred weapon of terrorists. They came in, (and said), ‘We want to shoot.'”

He turned them away because the range closes at 4:45 p.m.

“They left here very unhappy,” he said.

Through “years and years” of experience, Cimino said, he gets gut feelings about people. “In the case of Randall, unfortunately, the guy didn’t have anything that we would even think would lead us to believe there was any kind of issue. He was like almost the perfect customer, if there is such a thing.”

According to police, Randall, 56, completed a 90-day program at Liberty Bay Recovery Center in Portland on Tuesday, Dec. 6. He left the center Thursday, Dec. 8. He walked into Top Gun around 10:30 a.m. that day.

“He was looking to buy a shotgun for his son, ostensibly,” Cimino said. “Just wanted to teach him, that happens all the time in gun shops. He didn’t go right up to the wall and say, ‘I want this firearm.’

“He didn’t make any decisions,” Cimino said. “He said, ‘Well, what do you think?’ ‘What do you suggest?’ and ‘What kind of ammunition?’

“Even if he’d said, ‘I want this kind of shotgun and this ammunition,’ would that have triggered anything?” he said. “No. We’re looking for something a little bit different.”

Staff guided him toward the $399 Mossberg, which Cimino described as an entry-level shotgun for upland game and ducks. Most customers buy ammunition in boxes of 25. Randall opted for a box of just nine.

During his half-hour in the shop, Randall never mentioned his military background and never mentioned being a pastor.

“Had we known he got out of a rehab, would it have made a difference?” Cimino said. “Yeah, it certainly would have made a difference, but that’s not a reportable (thing.) The FBI doesn’t check into that.” 

His background check was completed around 11 a.m. He took the purchase and left.

Cimino heard on the news later that day there had been a murder-suicide in Hebron, but nothing about it stood out. On Friday, police announced in a news release that Daniel Randall had killed his daughter, Claire, and then himself.

Anita Randall had served Daniel with divorce papers days before. She and Claire’s teenage brother weren’t home at the time of the shooting, according to police.

When Cimino saw the name the next day, he thought, “It can’t be the same guy.”

“We ran down here to go look at the paperwork,” Cimino said. “By that time, the police had called. They ran the trace and they knew the gun was bought here.”

State police have asked for his store’s footage of Randall. He has a video expert coming next week to sort through his hard drive. He and the two Top Gun employees in the store when Randall was there are giving depositions to police on Monday.

Police had been shielding the gun shop’s name from the public while the case is still active. Cimino said he came forward in an interview with WCSH Channel 6 on Thursday because he felt like the news was about to come out.

He said Friday that he’d taken some flak for that decision already.

“(I) had people call me this morning, a gun association which I won’t mention any names, ‘You know what, by giving that information, you made it sound like it was easy to buy a gun. It is easy to buy a gun.’ I hung up on him,” Cimino said.

He’s thought a lot about Randall and that half-hour in the last week. He and staff have talked. They’re not sure they could have done anything different.

In the week since the murder-suicide, police have also started to review the death of Randall’s first wife, Greta, who died after falling at Two Lights State Park in Cape Elizabeth in July 1993. She was six months pregnant and the boy she carried died the following day.

“This guy was so nondescript — now it scares me,” Cimino said. “Hundreds of people come in here; he was just as normal (as any of them.) There was just no flag of any sort. That’s the discouraging thing to us. We look for signs, but you just can’t get in somebody’s head.”

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