BANGOR, Maine — Shawn Donahue, 41, a Washington County law enforcement veteran who had been serving as the chief deputy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, died Saturday afternoon of an apparent heart attack while traveling to Bangor to visit family.
Washington County Sheriff Donnie Smith confirmed the death Saturday evening.
“It’s just a terrible tragedy and an absolute shock for everyone, but especially for his family,” he said. “They absolutely do not make them like they made Shawn Donahue. He was unbelievable, a man everyone liked and respected. It’s a complete tragedy.”
Smith said that Donahue was heading to Bangor with his wife and one of his children with his wife behind the wheel when he apparently suffered a heart attack. His wife pulled over to the side of the road and CPR was administered by passers-by. Donahue was taken by ambulance to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, but he was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Donahue was a deputy in Smith’s department in 2009 and 2010, and then he left to become the chief of police and public safety director in the Washington County community of Baileyville. Prior to joining the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, Donahue had been a sergeant with the Baileyville Police Department between 1998 and 2009.
Donahue became chief deputy for the Washington County Sheriff’s Office after being hired in January and beginning work in February 2013.
Darrell Crandall, chief deputy of the Aroostook County Sheriff’s Department, said Saturday evening that he was deeply saddened by Donahue’s death. He called Donahue someone that he thought of as a colleague and a friend who valued family above all else.
“He was a progressive law enforcement leader, highly regarded by his peers,” he said. “But I know that first he would want to be remembered as a husband and a father.”
Smith said that he hadn’t noticed any signs of illness in the chief deputy.
“A few weeks ago, he had just passed a physical,” Smith said Saturday evening. “And so just yesterday, he was joking with me and saying that he was in better shape than I was and he was going to get a break on his premiums and I wasn’t. We were laughing about it.”
Smith announced the news of Donahue’s death just after 7 p.m. on Saturday on the department’s Facebook page. Expressions of condolence and tribute’s to the fallen officer immediately began pouring in.
One man wrote of having been pulled over by Donahue and handed a speeding ticket when he was in high school. Fifteen minutes later, he said on the social media site, “we were chatting it up at the high school dance. Rest in peace Shawn.”
Police departments across the state also reacted on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, removing their customary picture from their profile box and replacing it with a picture of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office patch with a black mourning band across it in tribute to Donahue.
The Scarborough Police Department was one such department.
“We are saddened by the news of your fallen brother,” read a statement on the department’s Facebook page. “Our thoughts and prayers are with you and Chief Deputy Donahue’s loved ones.”
Damien Pickel, the chief of the Milo Police Department, also posted a note from his department on the sheriff’s department Facebook page.
“Condolences from the Milo Police Department on the loss of your chief deputy,” he wrote Sunday. “We send our thoughts and prayers to you and his family during this time of grief. May Shawn rest in peace. Never forgotten, never forsaken.”
Smith said in an email late Saturday evening that it would “never be the same” without Donahue at the department.
“He was one of kind, and we must remember what he taught us all, respect and dignity,” the sheriff wrote. “Chief Deputy Donahue rest well. We promise to fulfill our/your mission. As your sheriff I thank you for service, friendship and your commitment to me and the office of the sheriff. I love you my friend. Please rest in peace. Godspeed.”
Funeral arrangements announced
Smith announced Sunday that the funeral for Donahue will be at 1 p.m. Thursday, May 22, at Washington County Community College in Calais. Visiting hours will be from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 21, at the community college.
The funeral will be a public service and law enforcement personnel are required to wear dress uniforms. Visiting departments should contact Lt. Tim Tabbutt (207-263-8709) or Sgt. Ralph Pineo (207-263-6330) and report the number of officers who plan to attend the funeral.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to assist the family in care of Sgt. Brandon Parker of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, 83 Court St., Machias, ME 04654.