Early Christmas gift creates tense incident

Posted Dec. 18, 2008, at 10:10 p.m.

HAMPDEN, Maine — Police and customers at Edwards Family Shop ’n Save Supermarket had a few tense moments about 2:40 p.m. Thursday after a shopper reported that a person armed with a rifle was outside the store.

Because two nearby elementary schools were still in session, police were in the process of putting them in lockdown mode when the matter came to a quick and peaceful end.

As it turned out, the rifle actually was a BB gun and the alleged gunman was a teenager who was waiting in the car while his mother, who had just picked him up at Hampden Academy, was inside the Western Avenue grocery store.

“Basically, we had a 17-year- old boy who got an early Christmas present,” Hampden police Sgt. Dan Stewart said shortly after the incident.

Stewart said the teenager was checking out the BB gun and its sighting capabilities by aiming it at the store and nearby features while waiting for his mom to finish her shopping.

A customer who spotted him, however, went into the store and informed the manager, who then kept everyone inside and immediately called 911, Stewart said.

“People did all the right things,” Stewart said of the customer and the manager, who declined to comment Thursday.

It didn’t take Hampden police long to arrive. Their station is located a short drive down Western Avenue from the store. Within minutes Stewart, Cpl. Chris Bailey, School Resource Officer John Peterson and Court Officer Joe Small were on the scene.

They were in the process of determining whether to lock down the local elementary schools, which are separated from the store by soccer fields, and to call in backup from other police agencies when they learned what they had on their hands.

“Luckily, we didn’t have to get to that point. It was very short-lived,” Stewart said. “Everything was said and done within a matter of minutes.”

In what might be another early Christmas present, police let the youth off with a stern lecture.

“We had a long chat with the kid about poor decision-making,” Stewart said. “I think this was a very poor decision on this kid’s part, but we don’t think it was in any way intentional.”

When police arrived, he said, the teenager did not immediately realize they were there because of him.

Stewart said police did not confiscate the BB gun.

“We talked to his mom. I think his mom’s going to take care of that for us,” he said.

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