PERU, Maine — George and Penny Richard said that as long as they could recall, their son Eric “Ric” Richard wanted to be a police officer.
It was his passion, that and family, his cousin Michelle De Roche-Johnson of Peru said at a family gathering at Richard’s parents’ house in Peru on Friday.
“His caring knew no boundaries when it came to family,” she said.
Becoming a police officer after graduating from Rumford High School was his goal.
“It was something that he was always interested in,” De Roche-Johnson said. “Absolutely. Even in his high school yearbook he mentioned wanting to be on the police department.”
He reached his goal, but it ended Thursday in tragedy.
The manner of Richard’s death — whether it was accidental, suicidal or homicidal — had not been determined Friday.
Richard, an administrative officer with the Rumford Police Department, had been despondent and was armed when he walked off into the woods. Local and state police and officers with the Maine Warden Service had spent the night trying to find Richard.
Around 10 a.m. Thursday, an armed confrontation occurred between Richard and Warden Jeremy Judd, 34, authorities said.
Judd was placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation by the Attorney General’s Office.
Richard’s relatives gathered at his parents’ house after the shooting to rekindle memories.
They had been sharing “the many amazing ways Ric touched our lives with his infectious smile and constant sense of humor,” De Roche-Johnson said.
“Ric valued his family above all else,” she said. “He was a loyal son, brother, cousin and nephew.”
He was also a devoted husband to his wife, Tamera, and her sons, Steve Smith and Nicholas Smith.
Many people in the community knew and respected Ric for his work with Rumford police and through his many other personal interests, including sports and music, De Roche-Johnson said.
George Richard recalled a special time that he and Ric shared one weekend when they camped together at Concord Pond.
They stayed up most of the night talking and playing guitars, then spent the entire next day fishing together.
Another time, De Roche-Johnson said, father and son “attacked an enormous hornets’ nest together, shooting cans of hornet spray like a couple of ol’ gunslingers!”
Penny Richard said her favorite memory of Ric was the day he was born. She said she had been trying to get pregnant for a few years, and for her to finally be able to hold her baby in her arms “was a monumental moment in my life.”
The loss of her son will be a heavy burden to bear, De Roche-Johnson said.
Ric’s brother Mark Richard of Rumford said he loves thinking about how they played together on so many sports teams.
No matter what the sport, the teams would always be Ric and his cousin Randy De Roche of Dixfield and Mark Richard and cousin Diane Tarr of Peru.
“Even though they would always make Diane the quarterback or the ‘crash-test dummy’ for their homemade go-carts, Ric would always manage to make Diane laugh through her many injuries,” De Roche-Johnson said.
Tarr shared a special memory of when she and Ric were walking home through the woods after sliding one winter and stopped by a small stream behind his parents’ house.
She said they both just sat there listening to the sound of the brook and watching the water flow over icicles.
“There was a sense of peace and the contentment of knowing that no matter what else was going on in the world, that moment in time was pure and innocent,” Tarr said.
“Mark also really enjoyed being around while Ric was learning to play music from their dad, because they shared a lot of good times that will always be remembered,” De Roche-Johnson said.
She remembered how Ric always took the time to entertain his younger cousins, and how he was always genuinely interested in their lives as adults.
De Roche-Johnson said Ric’s cousin and best friend, Randy De Roche, experienced a lifetime of laughs together, playing sports and music.
“They stood by each other through good times and bad,” she said. “Randy misses him so much already. He loves him and knows Ric will always be his best friend.”
“There are so many facets of Ric’s personality that made him so loved by all who knew him,” De Roche-Johnson said. “We are blessed in so many ways to have had him in our lives. He is missed more than words can ever express.”
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