Search for teen turns dangerous after Belfast resident discharges weapon
BELFAST — Belfast Chief of Police Michael McFadden said a fairly routine call turned into anything but when a resident chose to shoot his weapon in the vicinity of Belfast police, just after 6 p.m. Dec. 17.
Officer Eric Kelley responded to a report of a juvenile who had fled a local residential treatment program. McFadden said that certain details regarding the teen made the search more urgent, though he did not disclose what those details included.
Officer Kelley began searching the woods surrounding the treatment facility, where a number of trails are located, McFadden said.
After following the trails in an effort to locate the juvenile, Officer Kelley ended up west of the facility, roughly 400 yards off Edgecomb Road, just within the treeline, according to McFadden.
While searching, Kelley, who was using a flashlight just within the treeline, suddenly heard “a firearm shot, and someone yelling,” McFadden said. Kelley then drew his own weapon, taking cover and yelling at the shooter, including identifying himself as a police officer. Kelley reportedly ordered the shooter to put the gun down, and that he was there on official police business searching for a runaway.
Following the verbal exchange, Officer Kelley resumed his task of searching for the missing juvenile. A short time later, Kelley heard a second gunshot, followed by more yelling.
After traveling to the house to confront the man, Kelley was reportedly told that he had seen someone in the wooded area that may be planning to steal a four-wheeler. The man reportedly told Officer Kelley he had fired “warning shots” in an effort to scare them away.
The resident also stated that he did not hear Kelley identify himself as a police officer, though McFadden noted he had heard everything else the officer yelled just fine.
Regardless of his intent, McFadden made it clear, “stealing a four-wheeler is not punishable by death.”
The incident is especially concerning given the proximity to a residential treatment facility for teens.
McFadden said charges against the man are expected to follow.
The juvenile runaway was found unharmed a short time later.
Erica Thoms can be reached at email@example.com