ROCKLAND, Maine — Lobster purchaser Brian Rockett went into Rite Aid to pick up sodas Thursday morning, as he does every morning to stock his vessel before boating over to Vinalhaven. He never expected a man to threaten him with a machete while he picked out his beverages that morning.
“A lot happened in a lot of seconds,” Rockett said. His life flashed before his eyes. “All I could see was my wife and my little kids. I was scared. You would be scared, too.”
Joshua Powell, 23, of Rockland also had gone to the Main Street Rite Aid at about 10:30 that morning, but according to police, he had a machete hidden on him. Powell walked to the pharmacy at the back of the store. There he jumped over the counter, showed the pharmacists his weapon and demanded drugs, according to Rockland Deputy Police Chief Wally Tower.
A witness who was at the pharmacy drive-through window could see everything from her car. She called police and told them what was happening.
Meanwhile, Rockett walked into the Rite Aid and encountered the suspect immediately after the alleged drug theft. Mistaking the man for a Rite Aid employee, Rockett said he told him, “Can’t you clean up your damn aisles?” That is when Rockett saw the 2-foot blade on the floor next to the suspect. The man, who was fumbling with pill bottles inside his clothing, then picked up the weapon, Rockett said.
“He put the machete over his head and whipped it around his head a few times,” Rockett said. Then, the machete-wielder walked past him, Rockett said.
At that point, Rockett said, six police officers arrived, pointed their guns at the suspect, and ordered him to drop the machete and get down on the ground.
Powell let go of the blade and the officers apprehended him, confiscating the machete and stolen drugs, according to the deputy chief.
Officers found three bottles of prescription drugs, including oxycodone, on Powell and two more bottles on the floor, police said.
Powell was arrested and charged with Class A robbery, which is punishable by up to 30 years in jail and a $20,000 fine. Police said more charges are pending. The suspect was then taken to Penobscot Bay Medical Center so his mental state could be evaluated, Tower said.
Powell arrived at Knox County Jail at about 5:30 p.m. His bail is $10,000.
According to Powell’s criminal record, he already faces charges of burglary and theft after an incident in May and a different count of burglary in an incident in June.
Prescription drug abuse is one of the most prevalent crimes in the midcoast. At a debate Wednesday night, Knox County Sheriff Donna Dennison said the use of illegal drugs was “the biggest cause of crime in Knox County” and that “everything [crime-related] goes back to the illegal use of drugs. In Knox County the abuse of prescription drugs seems to be the most prevalent.”
As for Rockett, he said Thursday that the encounter shook him up.
“I don’t scare easy at all. I don’t,” he said “[But] this rattled my cage. I actually broke down. I was actually emotional later on and cried.”
Despite the incident, he said he would return to the Rite Aid as usual on Friday for sodas.