RUMFORD, Maine — A prominent local businessman and a disabled former police officer are charged with assault and disorderly conduct following a fight at Judy’s Variety on Route 2 last week.
Ronald J. Theriault, 51, of Pine Street and Robert N. Gilbert, 54, of Canaan were issued summonses by Sgt. Douglas Maifeld and will be arraigned Dec. 4 in 11th District Court.
Maifeld also issued each a written harassment order prohibiting contact with the other, because Gilbert travels to Rumford to take care of his mother.
Theriault, a financial broker, owns Summit Insurance and Financial on Congress Street and is a former Rumford Finance Committee member who ran unsuccessfully for selectman in 2007.
Theriault said Tuesday afternoon by phone that he had no comment. Gilbert didn’t return calls.
Maifeld said the incident occurred at about 9 a.m. Oct. 4 when he received a complaint from Judy Gill, the owner of Judy’s Variety, about a fight in the parking lot.
Both Theriault and Gilbert had left the parking lot before the sergeant arrived.
However, Maifeld said witnesses and security video revealed what happened between the two men after they got coffee.
“Gilbert approached Theriault because he thought he was saying things that he felt were inappropriate inside the store,” Maifeld said. “Ron was saying inappropriate things about women while a woman was in the store and (Gilbert) didn’t think that was appropriate.”
Both men left and began yelling at each other for more than a minute, Maifeld said.
“What I saw on video was them both going at it face to face, just screaming at each other or talking vividly at each other,” he said.
The video shows Theriault holding up his cup of hot coffee at about shoulder height and Gilbert slapping the cup out of his hand, “which went all over (Theriault),” Maifeld said. “Ron, in turn, started punching (Gilbert). On the video you can see after the first punch was thrown that Gilbert was trying to walk away.
Theriault punched Gilbert several more times, Maifeld said, “and then from what witnesses told me, Ron ended up pulling the shirt up over the guy’s head and started hitting him and kicking him while he was down, until somebody separated them.”
According to witnesses, a man who drove up in a pickup truck separated the men.
Maifeld said Gilbert told him that because of his past experience as a police officer who had people throw hot coffee in his face, that he believed Theriault was about to douse him with coffee and knocked it away.
When he asked Theriault why he didn’t just walk away after getting hit with the coffee, Maifeld said Theriault felt “too intimidated because the guy was a lot bigger than him, but the video shows something totally different: Ron kept saying to the other guy, ‘Let’s do this now! Let’s do this now!”
Citing the video footage as investigative material, Maifeld declined to release it to the Sun Journal.
The sergeant said he asked Theriault about witness statements that he was kicking Gilbert “and he said he doesn’t recall that, because he was caught up in the moment, or something like that.”
During the altercation, Maifeld said, Gill’s daughter was pumping gas for a woman who had a child in her car. Both women provided statements, along with an employee from Sam’s Italian Restaurant next door.
The customer “didn’t know Mr. Theriault well, but had met him and said he seemed like a real nice guy, laid back, and she said she was just appalled about the vulgar language that was coming out of (Theriault’s) mouth and the actions that he took against this other guy,” Maifeld said. “She said (Theriault) was totally the aggressor.”
Maifeld said he charged Gilbert with disorderly conduct for following Theriault outside and assault for knocking the cup out of Theriault’s hand.
He charged Theriault with disorderly conduct for vulgar language in the presence of a child and assault for the fight itself.
Both men drove to Rumford Hospital afterward for treatment. Maifeld said Theriault had a scratch and a coffee burn on his face. Gilbert had a cut on his nose, scrapes on his leg and possibly bruised ribs.