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AUBURN, Maine — An armed man has been taken into custody at the Shaw’s supermarket lot on Center Street, ending a 4½-hour standoff with police.
Randolph Nutter, 36, of Auburn, was taken into custody just before 4 p.m. Monday; Center Street and the Veterans Bridge were re-opened minutes later.
According to Auburn Police Chief Phil Crowell, Nutter turned himself in and has been charged with theft and creating a standoff. He will be evaluated at St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center before being transported to the Androscoggin County Jail.
Crowell said that just after 11 a.m. Monday, Nutter attempted to snatch a woman’s purse at Walmart and fled to the Shaw’s supermarket parking lot, where he was then surrounded by police.
Nutter, who police said was holding a gun on his lap as he sat in his gray Jeep Cherokee, threatened to harm himself and any police officer who approached his car.
During the standoff, Christine Simpson, 32, of Winthrop, identified herself to the media as someone who has known Nutter since they were children and said she talked to him “as this was all going down. He said he was surrounded by police,” Simpson said.
At 12:30, members of the State Police Tactical Team, with shields raised, were getting in place to assist Auburn police, including stationing a rifleman on the roof at the nearby JC Penney store.
Police evacuated the parking lot at the Auburn Mall across from where the Cherokee was parked and trained long guns and handguns on the driver of that vehicle.
Until about 1 p.m. police were attempting to talk to the driver through a bullhorn, and could be heard repeating: “Roll down your window. Throw out your keys. Show your hands. We can end this peacefully. Do so now.”
They were also offering “to get you the help you’re asking for.”
At 12:55, well more than an hour after the standoff began, the driver partially rolled his window down after police said they couldn’t hear him very well. Minutes later, after he had tossed his keys out of the window, he rolled the window back up. Police asked him to stop using his cell phone.
Conversation between police and Nutter quieted about 1:05 p.m., and Nutter appeared to have stopped communicating with police through his car window until just before he surrendered.
According to Simpson, Nutter is a mechanic who has raced cars at Oxford Plains Speedway.
According to state Department of Motor Vehicle records, Nutter has five speeding convictions and one conviction of operating under the influence in 2008. According to state records, Nutter also has several criminal convictions, including criminal trespass in 1990, violation of a protection order and violating conditions of release in 2007.
The Shaw’s parking lot, and the adjacent Auburn Mall and lot, were evacuated and the Veterans Bridge and northbound and southbound lanes of Center Street in front of Shaw’s were closed to all traffic.
Police re-routed Center Street traffic around the back side of the Auburn Mall and Auburn Public Works crews set up barricades blocking access to the Shaw’s and mall parking lots. All of the stores in the Shaw’s plaza were evacuated. JC Penney was also evacuated, as was much of the mall building before its doors were locked. Most of the customers left the mall as soon as they were informed of the standoff, but many of the employees remained in the mall’s common areas.
About three dozen people who couldn’t get to their cars or chose not to leave stayed in mall.
Police also ordered George’s Pizza — across Center Street from Shaw’s — closed and evacuated for the duration of the standoff.
Kayt DeMerchant posted on the Sun Journal’s Facebook page: “I was caught right in the middle of this. The police are doing an excellent job. They have closed Shaw’s and got me to my car safely and out of the parking lot quickly. I am so glad I did not have my kids with me. Scary, scary stuff!”
According to Crowell, police will conduct in an internal after-action briefing to talk about their response.