Updated at 9:21 a.m. ET, April 26
A Maine man killed a sheriff’s deputy in the small hours of Wednesday morning, stole the slain officer’s marked patrol car, robbed a convenience store, and vanished as dawn broke. He's still at large.
A manhunt throughout Wednesday night yielded no results, and continues on Thursday.
The force looking for Williams now numbers 175 to 200 police officers, including tactical units from neighboring states and federal agencies as well, according to police.
The suspect, John Williams, 29, of Madison, Maine, has texted a relative that he has a high-powered rifle and won’t be taken alive, according to police and local news reports.
Police initially thought they had cornered Williams Wednesday afternoon in the house he lives in with his girlfriend, but a tactical operation to clear the house Wednesday evening revealed the house to be empty, according to WMTV 8 of Portland.
Somerset County Sheriff Cpl. Eugene Cole was shot to death between 1 and 2 a.m. Wednesday morning according to Maine State Police.
After killing Cole, the suspect drove Cole’s “fully marked cruiser” to a nearby Cumberland Farms, where he robbed it, before fleeing in the cruiser, police said.
Williams abandoned the vehicle around 5 a.m. in Norridgewock, Maine, and fled on foot. He “should be considered armed and dangerous,” according to police.
Williams was arrested in March by Massachusetts State Police for carrying a handgun without a license and related firearms violations, after Troopers found a loaded 9mm Smith & Wesson automatic in his car, which he had crashed, according to the Boston Herald.
Troopers also found several small plastic bags with white and tan powder residue inside them, the newspaper reported.
Williams was detained on $10,000 bail, which was later reduced to $5,000. He posted bail and was released from jail on March 31.
Williams was due back in court in Massachusetts on Wednesday — just hours after he allegedly killed Cpl. Cole — for an initial hearing in the gun case, which could have lead to more than 10 years in prison, a spokesperson for a local prosecutor there told the Bangor Daily News.
Cole is the first Maine police office to be shot to death in the line of duty since 1989, when Maine State Police detective Giles Landry was killed while investigating a child abuse case, by a suspect who later killed himself.
Friends of Williams who knew him in high school remembered him as a caring, funny kid who “stuck up for others and hated bullies,” as Casey Sproul-Costa told the Bangor Daily News.
Another high school friend, Richard Rinadli, told the newspaper that Williams was a “stand out” kid, but “he’s a totally different person now."
Thursday morning, as rain fell, police held a press conference and asked Williams to turn himself in.
This is a developing story.
[Photos: Maine State Police]