HOULTON, Maine — A Canadian man who held police at bay for nine hours by threatening to blow up the Cyr Bus Line bus he was on unless he was taken to Canada was arrested early Thursday morning and charged with multiple crimes.
Houlton Police Chief Butch Asselin said that Daniel Thomas Maccabee, 50, was arrested without incident at about 4 a.m. and charged with assault, aggravated reckless conduct and terrorizing. He is being held at the Aroostook County Jail.
Maccabee, who is a Canadian citizen, boarded the bus in Bangor. While en route, he told the bus driver that he wanted to go to the Canadian border and ordered him not to stop in Houlton. The driver refused and pulled the bus into the Irving Big Stop restaurant in Houlton, Cyr Bus Line’s customary depot. The bus parked between the Irving sign and the gas pumps, near the front entrance to the business, which is open 24 hours a day.
Maccabee told the driver that he had a bomb and showed him what appeared to be a detonator that had three wires connected to it. The wire went from the detonator to a bulge under his jacket and shirt.
The six other passengers were allowed to exit the bus and a U.S. Border Patrol agent, who was at the Irving to conduct a routine check of the bus, notified the Houlton Police Department at 8:46 p.m. about the bomb threat.
Houlton police Sgt. Fred Parker arrived shortly afterward to assist the agent and began speaking with Maccabee from the door of the bus. The 50-year-old suspect initially told the sergeant that his name was Ruben Cullins, age 31, of the Bronx, New York. Police later learned his true identity. Maccabee, who was born in Quebec, had last been living in Madison, Wis.
Police quickly shut down north- and southbound traffic on U.S. Route 1, where the business is located. The state police tactical team also was called.
Jim Nesbitt, who lives in Presque Isle, was driving on Interstate 95 in Bangor headed toward Houlton when he saw a number of state police vehicles pass him. When he got to Houlton at 12:30 a.m., he saw a sea of police officers and vehicles and quickly was stopped by an officer as he headed up Route 1.
Nesbitt said he was rerouted through the parking lot of a local gas station and given directions around the scene.
At the Irving Big Stop, Maccabee demanded that all customers be cleared out of the restaurant and wanted various exterior doors in the business locked. He wanted the interior doors left unlocked and open. He ordered police not to shut off the utilities so he could still have access to fax and Internet service. Despite the request, he never left the bus.
Members of the Houlton police and the Maine State Police tactical team negotiated with Maccabee, who told them his original plan was to force the bus to the Houlton Port of Entry, show the bomb to Canadian immigration authorities and demand asylum at the Israeli consulate in Ottawa. Maccabee indicated that once he arrived there, he would give himself up.
He told police that he wanted to go Murray’s Truck Stop in Woodstock, New Brunswick, until he could make arrangements to get to the consulate.
While he was on the bus, Maccabee allegedly assaulted three women before they were able to get off. He ordered one woman to the middle of the bus, and when she didn’t move, he punched her in the arm and asked her if she wanted to die, police reported. He also allegedly kicked another woman in the leg, flashed the detonator and told her that he wanted her seat. He grabbed a third woman by the hair and pushed her off the bus, police said.
After state police and a bomb squad arrived at the site at about 11:15 p.m., officials used a remote-controlled robot to communicate with Maccabee and provide live footage of the scene. Maccabee was provided a phone which he used to negotiate his demands with the state police.
Asselin, who arrived at the scene at 9 p.m., said Maccabee displayed no drug or alcohol use. The suspect told police that he had been detained by three FBI agents as he stepped off a bus in Washington, D.C. He said he had bomb building experience and was previously employed by the Israeli Secret Police. He told police that he wanted asylum in Canada.
As the tactical team was preparing to force Maccabee off the bus with gas, he gave himself up, according to Asselin. Members of the bomb squad searched the bus for explosive devices but found none, the chief reported.
The device which Maccabee was holding that resembled a detonator turned out to be a Nintendo Wii game system controller, intercom wire, duct tape and a spiral bound notebook.
The Irving Big Stop was open for business on Thursday morning, but an employee at the store said that the manager and other employees had been told not to speak to the media about the incident.
Jason Biggens, a long-haul truck driver from Columbus, Ohio, who was getting gas at a neighboring station Thursday afternoon, recalled being stopped by police when he pulled into Houlton just after 2 a.m.
“I come to this part of Maine every week or so, and I usually always stop at the Big Stop,” he said. “The minute I got off the interstate I could see all of the blue lights flashing. I thought there had been an accident or a gas spill or something. The cop wouldn’t tell me, he just told me how to reroute around Route 1.”
Biggens said that he pulled into a Route 1 motel to spend the night and heard “rumor after rumor after rumor.”
“There were people outside trying to see what was going on, but it was too dark and police weren’t letting anyone near,” he said. “Someone told me that there was a guy with a gun on the bus, another person told me that someone on the bus was threatening suicide. No one really knew what was going on.”
Kelly St. Pierre, who lives in Houlton, was returning to her hometown from a trip to Portland at around 1 a.m. Thursday. She said she had planned to meet a friend at the Big Stop for a late-night snack when he called her on her cell phone.
“My friend told me that something was going on at the store and that cops were everywhere,” she said. “I saw a ton of blue lights when I got into town and saw a police officer rerouting traffic.”
Michael Witten of Bridgewater works in Houlton and was dropping off a friend at the Shiretown Motor Inn, which is just across the street from the restaurant, when the bus pulled into the parking lot.
“I saw the Border Patrol officer near the door as I drove away, and I saw a few people walking quickly from the bus,” he said. “I didn’t know what was going on, but I thought it was weird.”
Joe Cyr, proprietor of the Old Town-based Cyr Bus Line, said Thursday that the bus was being driven by Archie Rivers, who has been employed by the company on and off for about five years. Cyr said that he saw Rivers when the driver got back to the depot Thursday morning.
“He is all right. He is a bit shaken up, as anyone would be,” said Cyr. “But he believes he did the right thing. He is going to be back to work tonight.”
Cyr said that Maccabee was the only passenger who planned to get off the bus in Houlton. The rest were continuing north to Caribou and the St. John Valley. Cyr said that the passengers called the depot and requested their luggage, which was to be delivered to them Thursday night.
“Taxis were provided for them to get to their final destinations this morning,” Cyr said Thursday.
He said company officials haven’t yet talked about additional safety measures.
“We are quite fortunate that the U.S. Border Patrol boards the bus in Houlton,” he said, referring to routine checks the Border Patrol conducts since Houlton is so near the Canadian border. “They sometimes take passengers off, usually for drugs. Sometimes people think it is a nuisance, but in this case it worked out well. We will talk about additional safety features, but we know these things happen. Sometimes there is nothing we can do.”
Aroostook County District Attorney Todd Collins said Thursday that Maccabee likely will make an initial appearance in court Friday, but court could be affected by a winter storm predicted to hit the area.
The U.S. Border Patrol, Aroostook County Sheriff’s Department and U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers assisted at the scene.