FAIRFIELD, Maine — The investigation of last Thursday’s shooting of a union hall building on Main Street continues, but Fairfield police say it’s at a standstill and are hopeful some tips will help them identify a suspect.
Several shots were fired through the front windows of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union hall at 176 Main St. late Thursday afternoon, but no one was injured.
“Thank God no one was hurt,” said Fairfield Police Chief John Emery. “It’s very fortunate no one was in any of the front rooms when this happened.”
Twenty people were inside the building at the time shots were fired, but they were taking apprenticeship classes in the back rooms at IBEW Local 1253’s hall, which is an old, two-story brick building that used to be a bank.
“Right now, we’re pretty much at a standstill. We’re very limited on what we have for information and evidence so far,” Emery said Tuesday.
Bullet holes were visible in two windows while a couple of door jambs and some walls bore proof of bullet damage. Emery said investigators recovered .22-caliber shell casings that could have been fired from a rifle or pistol.
“There were at least three shots that came through the windows and another came into the secretary’s office and the bullet wound up on top of her desk,” said Scott Cuddy, an electrician who has been an IBEW Local 1253 member for seven years. “Had she been there, she would have been struck by the bullet.”
As far as figuring out a motive for the shooting, investigators are at a loss to explain it so far.
“Where it was a union hall, it could be the union itself or it could be one particular person who was there that the shooter had a grudge against,” said Emery.
Local officials for the IBEW, which represents more than 240 people in eastern, Down East, midcoast and central Maine, have told police they don’t know what prompted the attack.
“It’s wide open as far as why this happened. We don’t have any likely suspects,” said Cuddy, Local 1253’s director of business development. “I know there are some people out there who aren’t big fans of unions, but we can’t think of anyone who would have any motivation to do something like this.”
Emery said the fact that all the shots fired were at that one building in a neighborhood where buildings are close together suggests it was not a random shooting.
“It does appear that building was targeted as there are several buildings next door and nearby that could have been shot if it was a random, drive-by thing, but there was no damage done to any of them,” Emery said.
Members at the hall that night said they heard shots fired around 5 p.m. There was no sense of panic among the people present while the shooting occurred.
“Everyone was out back, and the way I understand it, they heard a popping sound and didn’t know if it was a malfunctioning furnace or a car backfiring,” said Emery.
Jeff Rose, the business manager and financial secretary for IBEW 1253, said there was a noise which was unusual, but not loud enough to warrant alarm.
“We heard something, and there’s always traffic noise, but it sounded like there might have been a couple pops. We didn’t know what it was, but it was enough to make us go up front to take a look,” said Rose.
Cuddy said most of the damage is repairable, but the front door will have to be replaced as police had to cut a large chunk out of it to recover a bullet as evidence.
Cuddy said union officers may look into several security upgrades.
“There are a lot of frayed nerves in that office right now because we don’t have a lot of security,” said Cuddy. “As somebody who works in that office, I sit with my back to a window all day and it concerns me that someone could come back for another pass.”
Rose said he’s already getting prices on security measures including a keypad access and surveillance cameras.
“It’s a sad thing to consider doing all this for a place right here on Main Street in Fairfield, but I guess you never know and I’m responsible for people’s safety,” Rose said.
Fairfield’s police department is asking anyone who might have been on Main Street on Thursday evening or seen or heard something related to the incident to call 207-453-9321 to provide tips, which can be made anonymously.