BREWER — An investigation of two people arrested Wednesday after a high-speed chase and suicide is focusing on possible links to drug-related burglaries of veterinary clinics in Maine and other New England states.
The arrests came Wednesday night, moments after a chase ended with a crash on Interstate 395 in Brewer.
As a state trooper and a Hancock County sheriff’s deputy — one with a gun drawn — closed in on the stopped car shortly before 7 p.m., one of the car’s three passengers leveled a gun at his own head and pulled the trigger.
John Gilman, 18, of Glenburn died of a single gunshot to the head. He was pronounced dead on the scene shortly after 7 p.m., state officials said Thursday.
The two others in the car, driver Sarah Gardner, 18, of Brewer and Eric Brewer, 19, a transient, were taken into custody. Three loaded handguns were found in or near the car, a police official said.
As well as continuing their examination of the chase and shooting, law enforcement officials are widening their investigation into Gardner’s and Brewer’s activities.
Both may have been involved in three burglaries of veterinary clinics in Hancock County in December, a police official said. They also may have ties to similar burglaries elsewhere in Maine as well as in New Hampshire and Massachusetts.
Brewer was already wanted by Massachusetts authorities for his alleged involvement in two veterinary clinic burglaries there in September.
“This investigation is really in its early stages but it may extend well beyond Hancock County,” said Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety.
Investigators are also looking into what caused Gilman to take his life. A 1996 graduate of John Bapst Memorial High School, Gilman received high honors in school and was a member of the mathematics and chess teams and was involved in the school’s music program.
McCausland said officers from the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department and the Maine State Police had gone Wednesday to a Hudson Road residence in Glenburn to interview some of the suspects, although none of the three apparently lived at that residence.
When police arrived, the three were in a 1995 Hyundai Accent on their way out. Police tried to block the Hyundai, but the car drove around the cruiser and sped off, McCausland said.
Police followed the car through parts of Glenburn and were joined by Bangor police as the fast-moving entourage drove through the center of Bangor, going from Broadway to Center Street, Park Street, Harlow Street and Central Street before heading down Main Street and onto I-395 into Brewer.
Gardner lost control of the car as she was making a sharp turn on the I-395 offramp into Brewer and crashed into a guardrail.
When Deputy Dennis Rollins and state police Sgt. Jonathon Mahon approached the car, one of the officers had his weapon drawn, McCausland said. But McCausland said he did not know which one had the gun drawn.
Mahon was next to the car, McCausland said, while Rollins was farther away and reported seeing Gilman in the back seat, gun in hand.
“Rollins saw the gun and then he saw [Gilman] shoot himself,” McCausland said.
McCausland said that having Gardner and Brewer in custody was a major break in the Hancock County investigation.
In late December, veterinary hospitals in Sullivan, Blue Hill and Trenton were burglarized. A burglary was attempted at a Bangor veterinary clinic weeks earlier on Dec. 7, but was unsuccessful, and police report a rash of similar burglaries around the state, including in Wells.
In many of the burglaries, animal tranquilizers such as ketamine — called Special K on the streets — were stolen. The animal tranquilizers are used as a recreational hallucination-inducing drug by people.
Deputy Medical Examiner Dr. Edward David said a blood sample was taken from Gilman’s body for a toxicology test to determine whether there was any alcohol or other drugs in Gilman’s system at the time of his death. David ruled that the cause of death was suicide.
On Thursday morning, police obtained a search warrant, and state police and Hancock County Sheriff’s Department investigators searched the car at the Brewer Police Department, where it had been towed around 10:35 p.m. Wednesday.
After they were taken into custody Wednesday, Gardner was taken to the Penobscot County Jail, where she was charged with driving to endanger, eluding a police officer and carrying a concealed weapon.
McCausland said police found a loaded handgun near Gardner when they went to pick her up off the ground where they had placed her after the accident. She remained in the Penobscot County Jail on Thursday night.
Brewer was taken to the Hancock County Jail, where he remains on three warrants, two from Cumberland County, one of them a drug charge. The third warrant was from Pepperell, Mass.
Pepperell police Sgt. James Peters said authorities there learned of the arrests Thursday afternoon. He said Brewer was wanted by police there in connection with burglaries to two veterinary clinics Sept. 29.
Peters said one person, Frederick Geis, 20, of New Hampshire, has already been arrested in the Pepperell burglaries, in which cash, ketamine and diazepam were taken.
Geis is believed to be part of a ring that also has burglarized clinics in in New Hampshire and Maine, including Kennebunk and Wells, police said.
Peters said he expects Brewer will be extradited to Massachusetts to face the breaking and entering charges, but acknowledged that authorities may have to wait in line.
“It doesn’t look like he’ll be coming down here any time soon,” Peters said.