Stearns alum, 19, dies of gunshot

Posted Jan. 18, 2009, at 9:48 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 13, 2011, at 11:07 a.m.

INDIAN PURCHASE 4 — A former Stearns High School baseball star was shot in the face and killed at a camp on North Twin Lake early Sunday when a handgun went off as he passed it to a friend, state police said.

When they realized he had been shot, friends of Tyler Emerson, 19, of Millinocket raced frantically on snowmobiles and in a vehicle to get Emerson to Millinocket Regional Hospital. There he was pronounced dead. An autopsy is scheduled today at the state medical examiner’s office in Augusta, state police said.

“It is in all likelihood nonintentional, but there are questions about how the handgun was handled,” Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, said Sunday.

Emerson and three friends had gone to the camp Saturday to spend the night, intending to return Sunday. The handgun belonged to one of the other men, as did the camp, McCausland said.

State police detectives examined the scene and interviewed the three after Maine game wardens took the investigators to the camp by snowmobile, McCausland said.

A Maine Maritime Academy student and American Legion baseball player for Lincoln Lumber, Emerson is probably best known in the Katahdin region for his three years as a Stearns High School catcher. Coming from a baseball family — his brother Josh was a pitcher and infielder — Emerson was a second-team Penobscot Valley Conference All-Star and Stearns team captain as a senior in 2007.

Opponents feared his rifle arm and quick reflexes.

“That was where he stood out. His arm strength was a big thing,” Stearns athletic director Chris Preble said Sunday. “Nobody ran on him. He knew the game very well so he understood game situations, but his arm was what people remember.”

During one season, Stearns stole 136 bases while opponents stole only 14, so leery were teams of Emerson’s throwing. He tried football his junior year, playing defensive back, but his love of baseball made other sports superfluous, former Stearns baseball coach John Montgomery said.

“He was one who really worked hard at the position. He really made himself a better baseball player. He loved the game and he gave everything he had to us,” Montgomery said. “He came out hard from day one, and in the off-season, he was in the weight room every day getting himself into great shape so he could be a better baseball player.”

Montgomery predicted that Emerson’s death would hit very hard in Millinocket, a town of about 5,000 people in the Katahdin region about 75 miles north and west of Bangor.

“He was a big part of the community with current high school kids. There are going to be a lot of people who are going to be grieving. It will be tough,” he said.

“He was just a great kid,” Preble said, “a great, hardworking kid.”

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