June 05, 2020

Knife-wielding man apprehended at gunpoint

MACHIAS — A 52-year-old Cardville man was apprehended at gunpoint in Machias Friday, after flashing a bayonet-style dagger at employees in two Machias banks.

Basil Smith Jr. was arrested and charged with criminal display, criminal conduct and criminal threatening with the use of a dangerous weapon, terrorizing and possession of marijuana at about 9 a.m., after a confrontation with police in the customer parking lot of the Machias branch of Bar Harbor Banking & Trust Co. on Main Street.

Machias Police Chief Robbie Dirsa said Friday that, at about 8:40 a.m., he received a report of man wielding a knife in the Centre Street parking lot of Machias Savings Bank. “He tried to get in with a bank employee and then with a repair man,” Dirsa said. The bank, which does not open for business until 9 a.m., was locked.

Although details remain sketchy, Dirsa said that Smith “attempted some sort of check transaction using the automatic teller machine.” Dirsa was told by bank employees that Smith, at one point, tried to use the knife as collateral to obtain $3,000.

“He told someone that the knife was worth $1 million,” Dirsa said. “We were told that he was waving the knife around the parking lot and scaring everyone.”

Smith, who never entered Machias Savings Bank, fled the lot before police arrived.

While at Machias Savings Bank, Dirsa received a call reporting that Smith was at Bar Harbor Banking & Trust Co., about a quarter of a mile east of Centre Street. Dirsa later learned that Smith had entered the bank and walked into the branch manager’s office.

At no time did Smith threaten the bank’s tellers or manager, said Dirsa, adding that Smith kept the knife, still in its sheath, hidden inside a paper bag. “He kept asking the manager if she wanted to see the knife,” Dirsa said, “and she kept telling him, `No.’ ”

Dirsa arrived at the bank’s parking lot to find Smith sitting in his 1973 Corvette, talking to another man who was standing outside. The other man, who was not involved in either bank incident, backed away from the car on orders from Dirsa.

“I started to approach the car,” said Dirsa, “and told (Smith) to drop the knife out the car window. He held it up and pulled it out of its sheath. I told him to drop it, but he hesitated.”

Dirsa said at that point he drew his gun and, aiming at Smith, again ordered him the drop the knife out the window. Smith, this time, complied. Maine State Trooper Brian Smith assisted at the scene by handcuffing Smith who, according to Dirsa, tried to resist.

Smith was taken to the Washington County Jail where, according to Dirsa, he continued acting irrationally.

“He was saying things that didn’t make any sense. He continued to act uncooperative. We watched him for a while then decided to take him to Down East Community Hospital,” Dirsa said.

Dirsa said he initially thought Smith would be transferred from the Machias hospital to Bangor Mental Health Institute for evaluation. Instead, Smith was returned to the jail where, as a condition of his $10,000 unsecured bail, he later was transferred to the Veterans Hospital in Togus for psychiatric evaluation.

Smith faces possible charges of attempted burglary, Dirsa said. “It really wasn’t a bank robbery in the usual sense,” admitted Dirsa, adding that the matter remains under investigation.

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