Two boys who were fifth-graders at Stockton Springs Elementary School during the Oct. 31, 2008, hostage event testified that although Randall Hofland brought a gun into the school, neither of them saw him point his gun at anyone.

Both of the boys, who are now in middle school, were brought in to testify after Hofland requested the youths be subpoenaed to testify in open court.

[Editor’s note: Due to the ages of children involved, VillageSoup is opting not to publish names of students who testify or who are discussed in court.]

Gun sighting triggered assumption of bad intent

When the first youth took the stand, Hofland took on an almost familiar tone with the boy, asking him how he was doing. Then, Hofland launched into a line of questioning that indicated the boy was not adversely affected by the events of Oct. 31, 2008.

“Do you recall saying [to police] that nothing really happened?” asked Hofland.

“No, something happened,” said the boy, who was swiftly interrupted by an objection from District Attorney Geoffrey Rushlau. Justice Jeffrey Hjelm sustained Rushlau’s motion.

The youth offered a brief account initially, saying that he saw Hofland grab another student, that the gym teacher grabbed him to get him away from the gunman, and that he saw Hofland was wearing “a gun holster with a pistol in it.”

“Then the code blue got called?” asked Hofland.

“Yeah,” said the boy. “… The gym teacher told me we should go back to the closet and wait for the police to come.”

The boy said he and physical education teacher Dan Campbell went to the storage closet on the back side of the gymnasium after Campbell managed to pull another boy away from Hofland.

“We went in the closet after you tried to get [the other boy],” said the youth.

The boy estimated that he, another boy and Campbell were in the closet for about 45 minutes before police arrived to escort them out of the building.

But as he was walking away with Campbell on the way to the closet, the boy said he saw Hofland heading down the hall toward the fifth-grade classroom.

During cross-examination, Rushlau asserted that the boy did not want to be in court to testify, and the boy agreed that was true. Rushlau then asked the youth to clarify what he saw in school that morning.

“Where was [Hofland] when you first saw him?” asked Rushlau.

“He was in the girls’ bathroom and he popped out,” said the boy. “… He was trying to grab my friend first. He tried to grab another kid and it didn’t work.”

The youth said he also saw bus driver Glen Larrabee speaking to Hofland as he firmed his grasp on another boy.

“He was just trying to get [the boy] away,” recalled the youth of Larrabee’s actions.

The youth said once he, the other boy and Campbell got back to the closet, Campbell locked the door behind them.

“And did he tell you you were safe now?” asked Rushlau.

“Yes,” said the boy.

“Mr. Campbell was very upset, wasn’t he?” said Rushlau.

“Yes,” said the boy.

“Because he’d been threatened with a gun?” said Rushlau.

“Yeah,” the boy replied.

The boy also told Rushlau he was aware of media reports about an ongoing manhunt for Hofland launched following the incident involving former Searsport Police Officer Jessica Danielson at an Oct. 23, 2008, traffic detail.

Hofland asked the boy where he learned that information.

“The news,” said the boy.

“And did you believe it was true?” said Hofland.

“Yeah, I was pretty sure it was true,” said the boy.

Hofland asked the boy if he ever told Maine State Police Detective Jason Andrews that he saw a gun, and the boy said he did. After the boy was excused, Hofland raised the issue with Hjelm about possibly impeaching the testimony based on contents of an audio recording of the interview Andrews conducted with the boy after the incident. Hofland said in that recording, the boy never mentioned seeing a gun.

When Hofland pressed the boy about whether or not he was sure about the presence of the gun, the youth bristled and told Hofland, “we wouldn’t have went in [the closet] if there wasn’t.”

When Hofland asked the boy where the gun was the first time he saw it, the youth offered yet another response that suggested he was becoming annoyed with Hofland’s questions.

“In the holster, obviously,” said the youth.

“And I didn’t point it at anybody?” asked Hofland.

“No,” said the boy.

Rushlau asked the boy if he was immediately scared when he saw Hofland had a gun.

“I knew it wasn’t good intentions,” said the boy.

Boy recounts in-classroom chat with Hofland

The next boy who testified was the youth who was the last child to leave the fifth-grade classroom during the hostage event. He was also the person Hofland turned his firearm over to before Hofland himself left the classroom and encountered police.

Hofland asked the boy what he remembered about Oct. 31, 2008, specifically about what occurred after he heard the term “code blue” from staff at his school.

“The school went into lockdown and you came into our classroom with a gun,” said the boy, matter-of-factly.

He said he recalled his teacher, Carolyn Russell, let out “one long scream” upon seeing Hofland at the doorway. The youth said once his teacher was forced out of the room, Hofland came over to the far end of the room where the majority of his classmates were located. Hofland sat on a crate on the floor, the boy said.

“Did you see a gun?” asked Hofland.

“Yes I did,” stated the boy.

“Where did I point it?” asked Hofland.

“Towards the ground,” replied the boy.

The boy said at one point he asked Hofland if the gun was a 9 mm or a .45, to which Hofland replied, “Neither.”

The boy testified that Hofland said the gun wasn’t loaded, and said he believed Hofland’s claim.

“Do you recall what we talked about?” asked Hofland.

The boy said Hofland talked about his divorce, and commented that he “hated doing this to children.”

Hofland then asked the boy if he remembered smiling, or laughing, during the incident, and the boy said that was true.

“I didn’t find it to be funny; it was just a way to deal with it,” he said.

Hofland then asked the boy a series of questions suggesting Hofland was trying to establish that he was kind to the children during his time in the classroom.

“I wouldn’t call a guy who brings a gun into a school nice,” commented the youth.

The boy said, excluding himself, the rest of the children in the class, who were all girls, were crying. When Hofland asked the youth if he remembered the circumstances under which two of his classmates left the room, the youth said, “they were crying, and you felt bad so you let them go.”

“Did I threaten anybody while I was there?” asked Hofland.

“No,” said the boy.

“Did you hear stories that I had pointed a gun at a teacher?” asked Hofland.

“Yeah,” said the boy.

“Did you hear it from a teacher?” Hofland asked.

“Yeah,” the boy said. 

“Did you believe it?” asked Hofland.

“Yes, I believe it to this day,” said the boy, adding he had also heard it from police officers.

The boy recalled the moments just before Hofland released the children from the classroom, and after referring to the written transcript of his interview with police, the boy recalled what Hofland said to him as he handed over the gun and gunbelt.

“You said, ‘Here you go, brave guy,’ and you handed me the pistol,” said the youth.

The boy testified that he held the gun over his head to signal surrender because Hofland instructed him to carry the weapon in just that manner.

Rushlau asked the boy if Hofland kept the gun in his hand the entire time, and the boy said he had.

Rushlau then asked the boy about when school secretary Tina Boyce entered the classroom, and what Hofland said to her at that time.

“He said something like the children are my protection?” asked Rushlau.

“Yes he did,” said the boy.

Retired officer recalls what he heard inside classroom

Retired Waldo County Sheriff’s Detective Bryant White remembered his role during the school hostage event Oct. 31, 2008, and provided details about what Hofland and the children were talking about in the minutes before Hofland released the children.

White, who is currently out-of-state, testified via telephone.

White, who started listening to activities in the fifth-grade classroom shortly after his arrival at the school, said he overheard Hofland talking to the children for about 10 minutes.

During that time, White said he heard a male voice — later identified as Hofland — asking the children if they had any questions for him. According to White, Hofland acknowledged the children were likely confused and wondering why he had come into their school. White also testified he heard Hofland refer to the children as his protection. White said Hofland also commented that police were trying to illegally arrest him.

White said the last thing he heard in the classroom was a male voice in the distance yelling the name “Randy,” which he said was followed by a comment from Hofland, who stated the police had arrived, it was over and the children had to leave.

“Was there any crying, or anything to indicate to you that they were upset?” asked Hofland.

“I can state that I didn’t hear any crying or hysterics,” said White.

White said at that time, he headed out of the main office and down the hall to tell the officers stationed outside the classroom Hofland was about to release the children.

Hofland then asked White if he had either participated in, or was part of, an investigation led by private investigator Gary Boynton regarding a complaint generated from Searsport or Stockton Springs, and White said he did have knowledge of it.

Hofland then mentioned the name George Perkins, and Rushlau responded with an objection. Hjelm sustained the objection, and Hofland went on to ask if others at Waldo County Sheriff’s Office were involved in that investigation. Rushlau again objected, and Hjelm sustained it.

Rushlau asked White what the reason was for listening to what was happening in the classroom via the school-wide intercom system.

“To get any indication of whether or not we have to move faster,” said White.

“If there was any indication that he was about to use the firearm, what would you have done?” asked Rushlau.

“We would’ve had to order them in,” said White, referring to the officers who were waiting, with weapons drawn, just outside the classroom door.

“But in the end, there was no violence, am I correct?” asked Hofland.

“In the classroom, no,” said White.

Hofland states his case

The entire afternoon session was consumed by testimony from Hofland himself, who offered detailed and wide-ranging accounts of what led to the state of mind he was in when he encountered the traffic detail Oct. 23, 2008.

Hofland, who offered his testimony in a narrative fashion, told the jury on the day of Oct. 23, 2008, he was at the Bucksport McDonald’s, where he was socializing and working on a book about his divorce. He left the restaurant between 10 and 10:30 p.m., and headed back to his storage yard, located at 421 East Main St. in Searsport.

As he approached the area of the roadblock, Hofland said all he could see were flashing lights and at the time he assumed someone had been pulled over. He continued on, and as he crested a hill, he said he was surprised by what he saw.

“I saw what appeared to be four sets of headlights with flashing lights pointed in my direction,” he said.

Hofland said his suspicions grew immediately, largely due to past experiences he had at other traffic details. He specifically recalled a roadblock situation in California in 2006, where Hofland said what was billed as a sobriety check became more like a “we-want-to-know-everything-about-you checkpoint.”

Hofland said he was told by California police that because he had been in the state for more than five days, he needed to become a citizen of that state.

Hofland said he recorded that encounter, as he “knew a fair amount about Constitutional law.” Hofland added that he is still well informed about Constitutional law.

Police a threatening presence

On Oct. 23, 2008, Hofland said he thought he saw spotlights pointed at him as he approached and said the sight surprised him to the point that he stopped ahead of the detail. He said he turned his headlights from low- to high-beam because he felt it would signal to the officers he “didn’t want to be blinded.”

Hofland said when Danielson started coming toward his car, he rolled down his window and told her to “stay away from my car” and told her he wanted an explanation about what police were doing there.

Hofland said there were no other cars stopped during his exchange with Danielson.

Hofland said Danielson “comes charging up to me” and “suddenly she just reaches in” to the car.

Hofland said he remembered the exchange clearly because his memory is “excellent.”

Hofland said after Danielson reached into the car and turned the lights back to the low-beam setting, he heard her yelling, “Gun!”

“She started yelling gun at me, and my eyes just lit up, I didn’t know what was going on,” said Hofland.

Hofland decided to leave when he saw Danielson reaching for her weapon, and he said he did not want to appear threatening to the police officers who were there. Hofland said with that in mind, he drove off quickly and went around the traffic cones in an effort to get to the driveway to his storage area, which was located just past where the roadblock was set up.

Hofland said he headed down the driveway and turned to face the officers, at which time he turned his headlights back to the high-beam setting.

“It was stopping the progression of police coming down my driveway, which was my purpose,” Hofland said.

As police were yelling at him to get out of the car, Hofland said he felt increasingly “threatened,” a term Hofland used frequently when referencing police. On several occasions, Hofland expressed a general distrust for police, and at one point suggested that going through “government processes” was not worthwhile when Hjelm sustained an objection from Rushlau. That comment triggered a reproach from Hjelm.

“Excuse me, is that a comment on the court’s ruling?” asked Hjelm. “You will not offer comment on the court’s ruling, you will proceed with your testimony.”

Hofland said he had warm socks and boots in his car because he wore them often while working at various job sites doing home repair. But he did not bring any of those items with him when he left his vehicle.

“I didn’t think to take the hiking boots; I didn’t think to take a lot of things,” he said. “At that point, I was under threat.”

He said he had on his blue jacket, which he said was germane to his case because “if I had anything else in my hand, it would have contrasted very nicely.”

He said even with the flashing colored lights at the traffic detail, a black gun would have been very obvious against the backdrop of his blue coat. His expertise on lighting, he said, came from his prior experience as a photographer.

“I adamantly deny that I had a gun,” said Hofland, adding that the only item he could think of that Danielson could have mistaken for a firearm was his cell phone.

He said in the months that followed his arrest, he commonly referred to Danielson as a “bald-faced liar” because of her insistence that she saw a gun in Hofland’s possession at the traffic detail.

Hofland said when he left his car, he used his cell phone to make a 911 call because he believed what police were doing was entrapment.

“You need to understand the sense of self-defense,” Hofland told the jury. “Self-defense is avoiding conflict… If [Danielson] stayed away from the car and told me what was going on, none of this would have happened.”

Hofland said he actually had three cell phones in his car that night — not two, as the evidence police collected suggests. Hofland stated he had three phones because when he returned from California a few years back, he noticed his phone wasn’t working properly. After obtaining a Tracfone, he found that phone was defective as well, and he began to suspect he was the victim of wire-tapping. He then obtained a second Tracfone, which he said was the one he used regularly.

Hofland said after he left his car Oct. 23, he was in the woods for eight days. During that time, Hofland said he reflected on the events of the past eight years, including his divorce, his being on a government watch list due to his dealings with the New Hampshire judge who was presiding over his divorce, as well as several run-ins with police that Hofland said served no purpose other than to gain information about him.

Hofland: Bus driver, gym teacher ‘delusional’

Hofland said he knew he had to turn himself in, and while in the vicinity of Church Street in Stockton Springs Oct. 31, 2008, he noticed buses transporting students to the nearby elementary school.

“I remembered the school being there, so I said, ‘Well, I’ll go into the school,’” he said. “I know it sounds bizarre.”

He said he “knew that the police weren’t trustworthy” due to his prior experiences with the court system and law enforcement, and he wanted to shed light on those experiences.

“I didn’t want this to be swept under the rug,” said Hofland, who made another reference to his being the victim of wire-tapping on several occasions.

Hofland made additional references to more recent run-ins with local and state police, and particularly mentioned George Perkins, a man Hofland said he worked for during a period of several years before Perkins “betrayed” him. At one point, Hofland made references to Perkins telling law enforcement and a judge in the Fifth District Court that Hofland had “cleaned him out.”

Hofland went on to say two officers assaulted him while removing him from Perkins’ home in 2004. At one point Hofland indicated he felt Perkins, as well as court officials involved with Perkins’ complaints against Hofland, were part of a larger effort to violate his rights.

“Everyone wants to know why I went to Stockton Springs,” said Hofland. “It has to do with state and local officials violating my Constitutional rights.”

Hofland said his intentions when he entered the school were to “surrender peacefully, and still make a big splash.”

Hofland said he was very calm when he entered the school, and he quickly sought a location inside that had “short sight lines.” Hofland said he did that because he feared someone might take a shot at him.

“I didn’t want anything to happen to me and I certainly didn’t want anything to happen with those kids,” he said.

Hofland said he took the single round out of the gun chamber and returned it to the ammunition magazine before he went into the school.

“To make it an actionable weapon, I had to pull that slide back,” said Hofland.

He said he did try to gather some children around him when he got inside the school, but it was for his own safety.

Hofland said he did not have the gun out when he arrived in the cafeteria, as Campbell and Larrabee had previously testified. Hofland made reference to the James Thurber character Walter Mitty, and accused both Larrabee and Campbell of being “delusional.”

“They’re looking for glory for something they didn’t do,” said Hofland. “If they told the truth, they’d be heroes now. Instead, they’re perjurers.”