As the trial of 57-year-old Randall Hofland entered week three Monday, Jan. 24, Maine State Police Trooper Jonah O’Roak recalled what happened Oct. 31, 2008, beginning with the moment he overheard radio traffic alerting police about a subject with a gun at Stockton Springs Elementary School.

O’Roak was on the witness stand the entire morning at Waldo County Superior Court Monday, and he testified to what he saw the day Hofland is accused of entering Stockton Springs Elementary School with a handgun.

 

Report of gunman overheard

O’Roak said he was on duty the morning of Oct. 31, 2008, and that he was in Searsport headed toward Belfast when he overheard some unusual traffic on his police radio. O’Roak said he heard a communication from Waldo County Sheriff’s Office alerting all officers to a situation at SSES.

“I overheard dispatch say there was a subject outside of the Stockton Springs Elementary School with a gun,” said O’Roak.

O’Roak said he turned his cruiser around and headed back to the school.

District Attorney Geoffrey Rushlau asked O’Roak what he saw when he first arrived there.

“At first I didn’t see anything,” said O’Roak, who noted there was a school bus parked out front but said he did not see anyone outside the building with a gun, as the radio communication had stated.

Then, O’Roak said, he spotted students and faculty leaving the school through a side door and getting on the bus out front.

From there, O’Roak said he parked his cruiser so that it faced the main entrance and he went inside the school. Once inside, O’Roak said he recognized several staff members in the office area, including bus driver Glen Larrabee.

“What did he tell you was going on?” asked Rushlau.

O’Roak said he learned from Larrabee that there were 12 children being held hostage in a classroom and the gunman, who was later identified as Hofland, had stated he wasn’t going to hurt anybody.

O’Roak said when he drew his service weapon, Larrabee said the gunman had a firearm similar to the handgun O’Roak was carrying.

O’Roak said he held his gun at a 45-degree angle as he approached the classroom where the students and Hofland were located.

As more and more law enforcement officers arrived, O’Roak said he took a position between the fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms, and remained pinned against the wall. Soon after, O’Roak said, Searsport Police Chief Dick LaHaye arrived at the scene and agreed to walk through the school to make sure the area was secure.

Then, O’Roak said, LaHaye headed back out to the lobby to direct incoming officers to the back side of the building. O’Roak said that was important because Larrabee had told him upon his arrival to the school that there was a rear exit Hofland could use to leave the scene.

Officers discuss use of deadly force

When Waldo County Sheriff’s Deputy Glenn Graef arrived, O’Roak said, the deputy came in with a rifle, and the officers took cover behind two rows of folding chairs that were situated in the corridor outside the classroom.

In deciding how best to address the situation, O’Roak said he and Graef had a discussion about if and when deadly force might be used.

Rushlau asked O’Roak to explain in more detail how police determine whether or not the use of deadly force is necessary.

“Based on my training, it was not an active shooter,” said O’Roak. “… The whole idea is, if it’s an active shooter, meaning shooting is going on actively, we can’t wait for a specialty team… We go in and take care of the threat immediately.”

O’Roak classified the SSES hostage situation as barricaded, which means that no firearm has been discharged by the person of interest.

“What we’re trained to do, and what we did at Stockton Springs, is isolate the threat, surround the threat,” said O’Roak.

From there, O’Roak said, officers are expected to begin negotiations with the gunman in an effort to “end the situation peacefully.”

Waldo County Chief Deputy Bob Keating and then-Lt. Bryant White arrived soon after Graef, said O’Roak, as did Detectives Merl Reed and Jason Bosco with the Sheriff’s Office.

While O’Roak and Graef were positioned in the hallway outside the classroom, O’Roak said two girls came out of the classroom.

“They went behind me to the lobby, where Chief Deputy [Bob] Keating and Lt. [Bryant] White were,” said O’Roak.

O’Roak said one of the girls “appeared to be extremely upset and crying” and he described the second youth he saw as being “visually scared, upset as well.”

When Maine State Police Detective Jason Andrews arrived, O’Roak said he and Graef met with the detective and at that time learned that the gunman’s name might be Randall Hofland.

O’Roak said Andrews relieved him as the officer in charge of the scene, and directed O’Roak to return to his cruiser and retrieve a rifle.

O’Roak obliged, and when he went out to the parking lot he met the then-SAD 56 maintenance director Peter Garcelon, who drew O’Roak a rough floor plan of the school. After asking Garcelon to repeat that process for some of the other officers at the scene, O’Roak returned to his original position outside the classroom.

When O’Roak returned, he recalled seeing Andrews trying to initiate contact with Hofland as the detective addressed Hofland through the closed classroom door. O’Roak remembered hearing Andrews telling Hofland to give up, and telling Hofland, “this isn’t going to end.”

“Was there any response to Detective Andrews’ speaking into the classroom?” asked Rushlau.

“There was not,” replied O’Roak.

Shortly after that, O’Roak said six more students emerged from the door and came into the hallway where the officers were situated with their weapons. O’Roak described the children as having “deer-in-the-headlights” expressions as they encountered police, as they had just come from a hostage situation and were then surrounded by armed officers.

“I directed them through us and out to the main lobby,” said O’Roak.

O’Roak said the final child out of the room was a young boy, who was carrying a gun belt and a handgun. The child turned the items over to O’Roak before joining his classmates down the hall, O’Roak said.

In total, O’Roak said, police found that Hofland was carrying 75 rounds of ammunition that day.

“Within seconds Mr. Hofland came out of the classroom as well,” said O’Roak.

“At one point while he was being arrested and searched, did he say something?” asked Rushlau.

“Once he was handcuffed and was being led out, he told us we ruined his plan,” said O’Roak. “His plan was to talk to the governor.”

Hofland questions police procedures

During cross-examination, Hofland asked O’Roak if Larrabee stated that Hofland did not want to hurt anyone.

“I do not recall if he said ‘hurt students’ or ‘hurt anybody,’” said O’Roak.

Hofland then asked a series of questions about the types of firearms O’Roak carries while on the job, and specifically, about the different ways one might load a handgun such as a Glock.

O’Roak said a person could either add a loaded clip to the butt of the gun and pull the slide back to bring a round into the chamber, or manually add a round into the chamber.

Hofland asked O’Roak if either Larrabee or physical education teacher Dan Campbell reported that he had pointed a gun at them earlier in the morning, but O’Roak said he didn’t remember.

Hofland went on to inquire about the night of Oct. 23 and 24, 2008, particularly whether or not former Searsport Police Officer Jessica Danielson specifically described the handgun that she said Hofland pointed at her during a traffic detail on the night of Oct. 23.

“In other words, she told you she saw a handgun?” asked Hofland.

“She did tell me she saw a handgun,” replied O’Roak.

Hofland also asked O’Roak about how he and Trooper James Leonard went about collecting evidence taken from the school and his person when he was arrested Oct. 31, 2008, and went on to ask about the sounds coming from the classroom when he arrived at the scene.

“You didn’t hear any talking?” asked Hofland.

“No,” said O’Roak.

“You didn’t hear any screaming?” Hofland asked.

“No,” responded O’Roak.

“You didn’t hear any crying?” asked Hofland.

“No,” said O’Roak.

“What changed?” asked Hofland.

O’Roak said more officers arrived, while at the same time the children were crying and screaming when they left the classroom.

“And you were coming out of the classroom,” said O’Roak.

At one point, Hofland asked O’Roak why he did not record all of his interviews with school staff, and O’Roak explained that he was advised against recording his interviews with victims.

As final officers take the stand, the state rests its case

For the afternoon session, Rushlau called retired Maine State Police Lt. Gerard Madden, Maine State Police Sgt. Jeffrey Mills, LaHaye, and Andrews, which rounded out witnesses for the prosecution.

Tuesday morning, Jan. 25, Hofland is scheduled to begin calling witnesses in his own defense, as well as offer his opening statement.

Andrews, the officer who tried to engage Hofland in conversation during the hostage event, testified that he learned of the situation at SSES when he received a call from Madden.

“What did you see when you got there?” asked Rushlau.

“There were officers outside of the school gearing up, getting their vests on and getting their rifles out,” said Andrews.

Andrews said he followed suit, but did not have a rifle at the time so he entered the school with only his service weapon for protection.

Once he arrived at the classroom door, where Graef and O’Roak were positioned, Andrews said he started trying to talk to Hofland after directing O’Roak to go get his rifle.

“I believe I made comments like, ‘Randy, this is the police,’ ‘Randy, no one needs to get hurt,’” said Andrews.

“Were you getting any response from inside the classroom?” asked Rushlau.

“No,” replied Andrews.

Just as officers were plotting their next move, Andrews said White came down the hall and said he could hear what was happening in the classroom via the school-wide intercom system.

“He said the subject was getting ready to release the children,” said Andrews.

Andrews said within minutes, the children came running out of the classroom, and a child holding a gun belt and the firearm was at the end of the line. Then, Andrews said, Hofland emerged from the classroom with his hands raised over his head.

“As I drew closer to him, I grabbed him by the arm and took him to the ground,” said Andrews.

Hofland asked Andrews if he had ever heard of him prior to the night of Oct. 23, 2008, and Andrews said he had.

“Why was that?” asked Hofland.

“I had received a complaint involving yourself,” said Andrews, noting that the prior complaint dated back to 2007.

As Hofland tried to ask Andrews about the nature of the 2007 complaint, Rushlau objected to each question and Justice Jeffrey Hjelm sustained Rushlau’s objections.

Hofland then asked if Andrews had somebody contact Gary Boynton on the night of Oct 23, 2008, shortly after Danielson reported that a driver — who was later identified as Hofland — pulled a gun on her.

“I had somebody try to contact Mr. Boynton, yes,” said Andrews.

Hofland also asked Andrews about his own demeanor when police arrested him at SSES Oct. 31, 2008.

“Did I resist?” asked Hofland.

“Other than not getting to the ground when I was telling you to, that’s about it,” said Andrews.

The defense is scheduled to begin calling witnesses Tuesday, Jan. 25, following Hofland’s opening arguments.

The trial is slated to resume at 9 a.m.