JAY, Maine — A former Verso mill worker who held the mill manager hostage for 10 hours Wednesday surrendered peacefully at 6:30 p.m. and was taken to the Franklin County jail, Maine State Police said.
Frank Smith, 49, of Norridgewock was charged with creating a police standoff and kidnapping. Police said he was armed with a shotgun when he stormed the administrative building at about 8:30 a.m.
Sources inside the mill said Smith was fired six months ago for spraying a co-worker in the face with a hose.
Police said Smith held mill manager Marc Connor, 43, at gunpoint inside his office in the administration building of the mill off Riley Road from about 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
The hostage release came after Smith spoke for several hours with Maine State Police negotiators, who responded to the incident along with the State Police Tactical Team, according to a release issued by the state police at about 4:30 p.m.
The mill’s communication manager, Cherilee Budrick, told reporters gathered outside the main gate Wednesday morning that all of the mill’s employees were safe.
Those working the first shift at the mill were kept inside while workers set to start the second shift at 5:30 p.m. were asked to report to Murray Hall in Livermore.
After Smith surrendered, first-shift workers were released and second-shifters were allowed to enter the mill. State police said the workers were never in direct danger during the standoff.
“That was one of the major concerns throughout the day,” Maine State Police Lt. Walter Grzyb said. “They were safe. They were locked down. We had a very good perimeter set up that detained the suspect to one area.”
The mill was in lockdown during the standoff but work continued, although trucks delivering pulp and wood chips were not allowed to enter the grounds and were lining up. Some waited several hours before leaving with their loads.
Budrick told reporters earlier in the day that the incident was isolated to the administration building and that Maine State Police were handling the situation.
A source told the Sun Journal that the ordeal started when Smith snuck into the mill through the wood gate — where the trucks come in for deliveries — and then broke down the administration building door, first taking a secretary hostage and then releasing her when the mill manager came in.
A pickup truck loaded with several police officers in militarylike uniforms and carrying assault firearms entered the mill’s front gate at about 10:15 a.m., according to a reporter on the scene.
Local schools also were put under lockdown and students were released early.
At least two reporters — one from the Sun Journal and one from WGME — lost access to their vehicles when state police widened the perimeter after the reporters had parked.
The reporters were not able to retrieve their vehicles until the standoff was over.
Shortly before 7 p.m., Grzyb and Jay police Chief Larry White addressed the knot of reporters just outside the perimeter, advising them that it was over.
“It’s been a long day,” White said.