Police chaplain helps catch burglary suspect

Posted April 23, 2010, at 9:16 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 12:02 p.m.

MILLINOCKET, Maine — An alert police chaplain delivering newspapers and a wallet found at a Central Street gas station led police to charge a local woman with a car burglary, one of as many as 15 vehicle break-ins at the Terra Haute apartment complex, police said Friday.

Tamara LeBron, 18, is due in Millinocket District Court on June 9 after she was issued a summons for burglary to a motor vehicle, a Class D misdemeanor, on April 18, police said.

Police Chief Donald Bolduc credited Officer Martin Legassey’s initiative and Pastor Ian Shearer’s alertness in helping make the arrest possible.

Shearer didn’t think he did anything special.

“I didn’t do much but follow up after someone who looked suspicious,” Shearer said Friday. “I had an unfair advantage because I [am] a runner. She wasn’t going to get away.”

A pastor at Faith Baptist Church on Massachusetts Avenue, Shearer was outside the apartment complex delivering the Bangor Daily News on March 19 when he saw a woman running from the parking lot. He didn’t recognize her and thought she was doing something suspicious, he said.

Shearer chased her 300 to 400 yards before, worn out, she stopped behind the Dead River gas station on Central Street. She told Shearer that she was “hungry and needed food,” he said. “I asked if she had taken anything and she showed me a small handful of change.”

Not having a cell phone handy, sympathetic to her story and concerned that he might have been burglarized, Shearer went to his vehicle. He didn’t attempt to detain her or call police that day, he said.

He expressed regret Friday at not calling 911 as soon as he could have, but then again, he said, this was his first pursuit.

As a volunteer police chaplain, Shearer accompanies officers on death notifications and goes to accidents or other incidents to offer spiritual comfort, he said. He’s not a police officer.

Shearer’s omission might not have mattered. Later that day, an employee of Plourde Trucking saw the wallet and two pairs of sunglasses next to a Dumpster he was emptying at Dead River and alerted police, Bolduc said.

Legassey used the identification in the wallet to visit its owner at Terra Haute, and learned that the wallet was stolen from the owner’s vehicle, among 10 to 15 other such crimes, he said.

“It’s a rough estimate,” Legassey said. “There were a lot of sunglasses and bank slips found on the ground outside these cars and several people reported things missing.”

Shearer reported his encounter with the woman a week later, and picked LeBron from a photo lineup of a half-dozen similar-looking suspects assembled for him, Legassey said.

Legassey eventually found LeBron, who was moving among several addresses, on April 18.

Residents typically shouldn’t intercede in possible crimes, Bolduc said.

“We wouldn’t encourage people to chase suspects because we wouldn’t want them getting into harm’s way,” Bolduc said, “but he obviously felt he wouldn’t be threatened.

“What he did is very admirable,” Bolduc added.

“I was just a citizen doing the right thing,” Shearer said, “not perfectly, but the right thing.”

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