10-Hour Standoff Ends in Tear Gas, Arrest of Murder Suspect
State Police confer outside an Augusta apartment building Tuesday morning where Peter Bathgate, 30, was arrested for murder following a 10-hour standoff with police. Bathgate is a suspect in the murder of Paul Allen, 47, whose body was found Sunday in Hal
The Morning Sentinal via YellowBrix
December 08, 2010
AUGUSTA — An intense, hours-long standoff at a Washington Street apartment building Tuesday ended with blasts of tear gas and the arrest of the man police say murdered an Augusta resident over the weekend.
Peter Bathgate, 30, of Augusta was charged with murder in connection with the death of Paul Allen.
Allen’s body was found Sunday off Winthrop Street in Hallowell after a daylong search by game wardens.
Bathgate, who has no known criminal history in Maine, was to be held at the Kennebec County jail, and is scheduled to make his first court appearance today at 9 a.m. at Kennebec County Superior Court.
Police declined Tuesday to specify why or how Allen was killed, and offered no details of the relationship between Bathgate and Allen.
“They did know each other,” Maine Department of Public Safety spokesman Steve McCausland said. “I can tell you that.”
Allen, 47, was found dead around noon Sunday near granite barricades separating Winthrop Street from a trail leading to granite quarries in Hallowell.
Game wardens had been searching for Allen since the previous day, when his truck was found abandoned on Town Farm Road, about a mile away from where his body was discovered.
The state medical examiner announced Monday afternoon that Allen’s death was a homicide.
Police began searching for Bathgate a few hours later.
Authorities “were in contact with him” throughout the night Monday, and were able to track him to a large apartment building at 37 Washington St., McCausland said.
There, Bathgate hunkered down alone inside a vacant fourth-floor apartment, McCausland said. Police have declined to specify whether Bathgate had access to a weapon.
Augusta and Maine State Police then swarmed the area, shutting off Washington Street, parking lots adjacent to St. Augustine Catholic Church and other connecting streets. Members of the Maine State Police Tactical Team then surrounded the building. A state police negotiator used an amplifier to talk to Bathgate in an effort to coax him out of the apartment.
“They talked to him for hours, off and on,” McCausland said. “Negotiations broke down. He wasn’t saying anything and the decision was made to use tear gas.”
Augusta police cleared the area, then Tactical Team members fired the canisters through windows on all sides of the apartment, setting off loud popping sounds that echoed across the hilltop.
Moments later, around 11:30 a.m., Bathgate was taken into custody — approximately 10 hours after the standoff began.
Police awakened residents in the eight-unit apartment building at 37 Washington St., as well as those in neighboring apartments, early Tuesday, warning them to leave.
“A few dwellers decided they wanted to stay put,” McCausland said. “We just cautioned them to stay away from the windows.”
A number of neighbors congregated on Kendall Street, which overlooks Washington Street approximately 150 yards below, witnessing the spectacle.
But there was little activity below, other than the standoff itself, to hold the spectators’ attention. There was little movement inside the building — though Bathgate would, at times, come to a glass door facing the street to move a curtain into place.
A police negotiator spoke to Bathgate periodically, often referring to him as “Peter.” The negotiator on several occasions tried to get Bathgate to speak on the telephone — at times even asking him to speak to someone familiar to Bathgate.
“Right now, I need to talk to you,” the negotiator said. “If you need a phone let me know. I just want to be sure you’re OK.”
Onlookers who were asked about Bathgate said no one had ever heard of or seen him in their neighborhood.
Gary Sounier, who lives in the apartment building next door to 37 Washington St., said he noticed police searching the Sand Hill area with dogs around 11 p.m. Monday.
Sounier — one of those who gathered on Kendall Street during the activity — initially believed police were looking for a burglary suspect.
“After we saw more cops show up, we knew something was definitely wrong,” he said.
Sounier said he and his girlfriend woke up around 3 a.m. Tuesday to find police shining lights into the windows of the building next door.
“They moved in on the house and surrounded it,” Sounier said.
Police knocked on Sounier’s door about an hour later and asked him to leave with his family, which includes two young children.
“We went down to my parents’ house down the street,” Sounier said.
Sounier, who is 30, was shaken.
“It’s quite an experience,” he said. "I’ve lived up here 20 years and I’ve never seen anything like this before. It’s scary to think something like this is that close.
“I hope he is smart and comes out of it with no one hurt.”
When it was over, Darren Ellis emerged from his apartment with his golden retriever to try and find out what had happened.
Ellis, whose apartment shares an alley with the apartment in which Bathgate hid, had tried to take his dog for a walk around 6 a.m. But police had ordered him back inside.
Ellis said he saw Tactical Team members scurry into place moments before the tear gas came.
“I heard boom, boom, boom — and I saw glass flying apart,” Ellis said.
“I’m glad,” he continued. “I’ve been trying to get out of my apartment since 6 this morning.”