A New York woman last week tipped off Maine authorities to an armed felon police say could have been targeting a local Walmart. Police say the tip fueled a fast-moving investigation from multiple law enforcement agencies that may have stopped Jeremy Hugh Rogers, 25, from becoming the next mass shooter.
“He was prepared for something,” Officer Elizabeth Hart of the Thomaston Police Department said. “We’re not sure what, exactly.”
Rogers, of Norwalk, Connecticut, is charged with terrorizing, terrorizing with a deadly weapon and possession of a deadly weapon by a prohibited person. In October 2016, he was convicted in Connecticut on firearms and child endangerment charges — both felonies.
While searching for Rogers on Wednesday night, Maine police closed and evacuated the Walmart in Thomaston where officers believe he may have been heading. Rogers, who was eventually detained outside a Rockport residence Thursday, made his initial court appearance on Friday in Knox County Court in Rockland. He remains in jail on $50,000 cash bail.
“Everyone felt that this case required a very fast response,” Hart said Monday. “These types of individuals, these types of threats, are the ones that sometimes slip through the cracks.”
The incident happened three weeks after a gunman went to a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, and killed 22 people there.
Authorities were alerted after Rogers allegedly sent a video on Facebook Messenger to a woman in New York. According to the Village Soup newspaper, the video showed Rogers wearing a ski mask and holding an AR-15 rifle.
In the video, he allegedly said, “F— it, I’m going to Walmart.”
In a second video, Rogers was not wearing a mask, the newspaper said, and was making disparaging comments about a woman and pointing a gun at his head. It’s unclear how Rogers and the woman are connected, but Hart said she called New York State Police to report his erratic behavior.
Authorities there got in touch with Maine police officers to warn them about Rogers.
“We had the information that he had possibly moved to Rockport. That’s what his Facebook showed,” Hart said. “We pretty quickly validated that he had in fact moved to the area with no known ties. It could be considered odd. It’s definitely a red flag for an incident such as this.”
Thomaston Police Chief Tim Hoppe notified Walmart stores in the region and law enforcement agencies in the state about the potential threat. Hoppe also sent officers to secure the Thomaston Walmart on Wednesday night. They initially locked all the entrances but the main front doors so they could keep track of who was coming and going. But the store was busy and crowded, Hart said. Police eventually closed the store early and cleared the vicinity, sending people who were parked there overnight in their motor homes to the nearby Lowe’s.
“I went through the entire store, checked every storage room, every office. When I did that, I knew it was a good decision to evacuate,” Hart said. “There were so many outlying areas, storage rooms, plenty of areas to hide.”
Officers eventually located Rogers with the help of the FBI at a residence on Mount Pleasant Street in Rockport, according to the Village Soup.
The home was heavily fenced and protected by barbed wire, the newspaper reported. A Rockland detective and an FBI agent who went to the residence saw Rogers leave, and they were able to take him into police custody. Rogers told police he was staying in Rockport with friends.
After his arrest, Hoppe and the other officers and detectives went into the home with a search warrant. They recovered two black powder handguns, a 9mm Glock handgun, one shotgun, the AR-15 and corresponding ammunition. Rogers was not legally allowed to possess any firearms because he is a convicted felon, police said.
Camden Police Department, Maine Warden Service and the Knox County Communication Center assisted officers from Thomaston, Rockland, Rockport and the FBI with the investigation.