In a video played in court Friday, John D. Williams reportedly told detectives he killed Cpl. Eugene Cole to avoid arrest, then stole the Somerset County deputy’s truck and planned to shoot himself.
“I know there’s no happy ending,” he told the detectives after the apparent confession, according to CBS 13’s Marissa Bodnar.
Friday was the second day of a three-day hearing on whether Williams’ confession to fatally shooting Cole should be allowed as evidence at his upcoming trial.
Attorneys for Williams, 30, of Madison claim he only made incriminating statements to police in the case because those who arrested him had previously “ beat and pummeled” him, and because hunger, exhaustion and drug withdrawal symptoms left him weak.
John Williams arrives in court for day two. He’s sitting right in front of Cpl. Cole’s wife and son. pic.twitter.com/pGftjUZzy9
— Marissa Bodnar (@MarissaWGME) March 1, 2019
On the first day of the hearing Thursday, Glenn Lang of the Maine State Police said he struck Williams in the face “two or three times” because the suspect was refusing to give his hands up to be cuffed at the time of his arrest. But Lang said he didn’t hit Williams after he was handcuffed and never threatened him.
Police allegedly found Williams hiding out in a small cabin in the woods near Norridgewock on April 28, 2018, after a three-day manhunt.
Each of eight other local, state and federal law enforcement officers who were involved in the arrest and who testified Thursday or Friday told the court he either didn’t see Williams hit or kicked, or only saw the hits Lang talked about.
“He wasn’t really cooperative in terms of putting his handcuffs on,” said Lang during testimony Thursday. “I struck him two or three times to the left side of his head to get him to comply.”
Lang also said Williams “tucked his chin down more toward the ground” when police asked him to raise his head for a photograph — which he said was requested by the off-site command center in order to make a positive identification — so the arresting officer pulled his head up by the hair for the photo.
The picture became controversial after it was later widely shared on social media, showing Williams chest down in the dirt and with a bruised face.
State Trooper Garrett Booth, one of six law enforcement officials to testify Friday, told the court he took the photo as directed by the command post, but that he doesn’t know how it was leaked onto social media, Bodnar reported.
Booth also admitted to the court he called Williams “a piece of shit” while leading him out of the woods, she reported.
“I was emotional,” he reportedly told prosecutors Friday. “I cared for Gene. I’m human.”
Bodnar reported that fellow State Trooper Robert Burke testified he put Cole’s handcuffs on the suspect at the scene of the arrest and told Williams: “These are Deputy Cole’s handcuffs and they’re going to follow you to jail and I’m going to tell his wife and child you’re wearing them.”
Defense attorney Verne Paradie, representing Williams, told reporters Thursday his client maintains he was also kicked and threatened during the arrest.
He said he’s hoping to convince Superior Court Justice Robert Mullen that Williams believed that “if he was talkative [to the detectives who later questioned him], they would prevent the other officers from carrying out on the threats they were making.”
“That’s going to be my argument,” Paradie told reporters. “Whether the judge buys that or not, I can’t say. Mr. Williams will most likely have a different story and the judge will have to decide who he believes.”
During video of Williams’ subsequent questioning by detectives at the Waterville Police Department, played in court Friday afternoon, the suspect was apparently given food and clean clothing to wear about 15 to 20 minutes into the dialogue, Bodnar reported.
Williams had been on the run with no food or water for more than three days, and was escorted from the cabin site naked after he defecated in his pants, police have said.
In the video, detectives read Williams his Miranda rights and stopped frequently to make sure the suspect understood what they were saying, Bodnar reported.
Williams then told the investigators he was trying to get into his stepmother’s house on April 25 when Cole showed up.
“I didn’t want to get arrested,” he told a detective, according to CBS 13’s Bodnar. “Grabbed my pistol and pointed it at him. Just made that choice.”
Williams’ comments to detectives in the video matched the description of events released in an affidavit in support of a search warrant unsealed last July, which said that Cole slipped and Williams shot him before taking the deputy’s truck to leave the scene.
In the video, he told detectives he didn’t know what to do after taking the truck, but reportedly said he didn’t plan to hurt anyone else, saying he planned to shoot himself.
When asked on tape if he’d like to say anything to Cole’s family, Williams says, “I’m sorry. I’m truly sorry.”
— Marissa Bodnar (@MarissaWGME) March 1, 2019
He said he didn’t have anything against Cole, the deputy who arrested his girlfriend shortly before the encounter: “Just [bad] timing, I guess.”
Williams also told detectives “that FBI guy beat the [expletive] out of me,” Bodnar reported.
FBI Special Agent David Scullion testified in the hearing Thursday, but neither he nor any of the other law enforcement officers who testified said Scullion hit Williams during the arrest.
Paradie is arguing that Williams’ statements are inadmissible as evidence because they were obtained using “brutal physical force” and “coercive tactics.”
There is no timeline under which the judge must issue a decision other than the trial date. The third day of the hearing, when Paradie said Williams may take the stand, is scheduled for April 8.
Williams pleaded not guilty to the charge of murder in June 2018. Cole was the first law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty in Maine in nearly three decades.