CAMDEN — Camden Police Chief Randy Gagne said soon after 3 a.m. Sept. 16, that Robert Beerman, 34, of Camden, had apparently died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound inside the Rite Aid Pharmacy on Elm Street in Camden. His death followed a stand-off that began at 7:10 p.m. the night before when Beerman entered the store with a sawed-off shotgun, and emptied the store of customers and employees, except for one pharmacist.
Camden, Rockport and Rockland police, Maine State police, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents, State Fire Marshal’s Office and Knox County Sheriff’s deputies converged at the scene, locked down all entrances to the Rite Aid, and closed off the street front of the store while Beerman and his hostage were inside the drugstore.
It is unclear what his motive was, and Gagne said at 3 a.m. that the incident remained under investigation.
No shots were fired by police throughout the night, and Beerman’s hostage was unharmed throughout the ordeal.
As downtown Camden filled with police cruisers and unmarked vehicles, the streets emptied of pedestrians and one nearby restaurant was emptied of diners. State tactical police arrived in vans and armored vehicles around 9 p.m., followed by state negotiators, who made contact with Beerman.
His identity was confirmed earlier in the evening by Camden police. Beerman had been arrested several weeks ago by Camden police and charged with breaking into Cuzzy’s, a Bay View Street bar, at 3:30 a.m.
Route 1 was closed to traffic and citizens were cleared from the streets and nearby parking lots Monday night and into early Tuesday morning. Later, the perimeter expanded and Route 1 was shut to vehicles from the intersection of Route 52 near the Camden Public Library to the intersection of Union Street. Late night Route 1 traffic, with its large tractor-trailers, was forced to find side roads around the scene that was filled with law enforcement vehicles and flashing blue lights.
Through the night, multiple agencies and departments responded, from the FBI to Maine fire marshals, crews from North East Mobile Health, Camden Fire Department, and even citizens, who helped to direct traffic.
Beerman held the pharmacist hostage until 11 p.m., when she was released.
At 11:45 p.m. Monday, Sept. 15, Gagne said: “that through negotiations the hostage at the Camden Rite Aid has been safely released. Right now, she is talking with investigators, and we are continuing negotiations with the suspect, who is still barricaded inside the Rite Aid. We are hoping for a peaceful resolution to this, and we will continue to work as long as it takes to get that.”
Coworkers of the hostage had remained on the sidewalk since 7:10 p.m., when the ordeal began, were relieved to learn she had been released. They remained there until 3 a.m. until the situation was over.
The initial call to police was received at around 7:10 p.m.
A Rite Aid employee said that a man entered the store as they were getting ready to close, brandished a shotgun at the pharmacy counter and told everyone to ‘get out.’ He ushered all but one employee out the door.
Periodically, police would see Beerman walking around in the store.
After the hostage was released at 11 p.m., negotiations continued with Beerman for several hours more, said Gagne.
“There was a period of about 40 minutes when no communication was made with Mr. Beerman,” said Camden’s police chief. “It was decided at that time that the state police would breach the front door. No further negotiations had taken place. State police entered the building to find Mr. Beerman deceased in the back employee’s break area.”
Police breached the door of the store with an armored vehicle. Prior to that, police repeated over and over again through a loud microphone: “Robby, come out now. This is the state police. You need to come out right now with your hands up. Robby come outside. You are under arrest.”
Police had obtained an arrest warrant soon after 1 a.m. while in the process of negotiations.
The investigation continues through this morning. Camden Rite Aid has been robbed four times over the past five years, with drugs being the objective.