BELFAST, Maine — After hearing testimony Monday from five police officers who had responded to the report of an armed hostage situation at Stockton Springs Elementary School, the state rested its case in the criminal trial of Randall Hofland.
Detective Jason Andrews of the Maine State Police told the jury at Waldo County Superior Court on Monday afternoon about donning his bulletproof vest and readying his .45-caliber service pistol the morning of Oct. 31, 2008, after he learned that there was a gunman at the school.
During his questioning by Waldo County District Attorney Geoffrey Rushlau, Andrews recounted walking down the hall at the elementary school and joining Trooper Jonah O’Roak of the Maine State Police, who was outside the fifth-grade classroom with his own handgun drawn.
After telling O’Roak to get his rifle, Andrews said Monday that the two began shouting through the door to the man they believed was inside holding students hostage at gunpoint.
“I believe we made comments like, ‘Randy, this is the police,’” the detective said Monday afternoon. “‘Randy, no one needs to get hurt.’”
Hofland, 57, of Searsport is acting as his own attorney while defending himself against 41 criminal charges connected to the Halloween incident at the school and also to a routine traffic stop that had taken place eight days before. During the traffic stop, Hofland is accused of threatening a Searsport police officer with a handgun, an event that triggered a manhunt until he reappeared at the school.
No one was seriously injured in either incident.
Andrews told the jury Monday that other officers were listening to what was happening inside the fifth-grade classroom through the intercom system. That way, the police outside the classroom learned that Hofland was getting ready to release the children, the detective said.
Searsport Police Chief Richard LaHaye said during his testimony that when he arrived at the school, children had begun to escape the classroom.
“I saw two girls running from the room where the alleged gunman was,” he said Monday. “I advised them to hurry.”
Soon after that, LaHaye said that he saw a number of students come running from the classroom. His advice was the same.
“I told them to run, and run fast,” he told the jurors.
According to Andrews, the last child to flee the room was a boy.
“He had a gun belt in his hands with a gun inside the gun belt,” the detective testified.
After the boy emerged, Hofland followed. Andrews described the alleged gunman as being dirty, unkempt and very smelly, with burdocks covering his clothing.
The police shouted at Hofland to get to the ground, the detective said Monday, but the man didn’t drop.
“As I drew closer to him, I grabbed him by the arm and took him to the ground,” Andrews said. “The man was uttering things along the lines of he didn’t want to start this and he wanted to speak with the governor.”
During Hofland’s cross-examination of Andrews, the defendant asked whether he had resisted arrest.
“Just not getting down when I told you to. That’s about it,” the detective replied.
“Out of curiosity, how was I expected to get on the ground when my hands were in the air?” Hofland asked.
“Just get on your knees,” Andrews responded.
As has been the case during Hofland’s cross-examinations during the more than three weeks of the trial, his sometimes erratic questions were interrupted by Rushlau’s objections, most of which were sustained by Justice Jeffrey Hjelm.
Hofland asked Andrews many questions about police protocol and about whether the detective had known of him before the traffic stop. Andrews replied that he had heard of Hofland because of a prior, unrelated complaint but had not met the defendant before that morning in the school.
Hofland also asked LaHaye about the color of Maine State Police cruisers and about how the location for the traffic roadblock had been selected. Hofland also wanted to know whether the Searsport Police Department had returned any of the property it had “seized from” him. Rushlau’s objection to that question was sustained by Justice Hjelm.
Hjelm instructed the jury that if Hofland chose, he could begin to call his own witnesses beginning at 9 a.m. Tuesday. The justice also said that Hofland might choose to give his opening statement at that time.