SKOWHEGAN — Planning a funeral for a fallen police officer has been a learning experience for Somerset County Sheriff Barry Delong. He is determined it will be done right.
One of Delong’s officers, Deputy Charles Baker, 53, of Pittsfield, was killed Tuesday night in a single-car accident on Route 2 in Palmyra.
Getting the services “done right” includes scheduling a memorial event for 2 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 4, at the Alfond Center at Colby College in Waterville to honor Baker and accommodate the hundreds of law enforcement officers expected to attend.
Delong and other members of the Somerset County unit were still reeling Thursday from Baker’s sudden and tragic death.
Baker was en route to assist a Maine State Police trooper about 10 p.m. Tuesday when his cruiser left the road and rolled over in a field in Palmyra.
The deputy was ejected from the car and died of extensive head injuries, according to information released from the State Medical Examiner’s office.
The Somerset County Sheriff’s Department has been besieged with inquiries about services for Baker.
“It’s been confusing,” Delong said. “I expect we will have representatives from across Maine, and possibly Canada, as well as New England.”
Services for fallen officers routinely attract large numbers of fellow officers and often their families, Delong said. The initial plans to hold services at a Skowhegan church had to be ruled out because of a lack of space.
Coordinating plans with the family, Delong announced Thursday that traditional visiting hours with the family are scheduled from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Monday, Jan. 3, at the Island Federated Church in Skowhegan.
The funeral service, however, has been moved to the larger space provided by Colby College’s athletic facility, the Alfond Center. The space will accommodate the large numbers of officers expected and offer adequate parking as well, Delong said.
“We’ll have reserve officers available to fill in [at the department] for whoever wants to attend,” Delong said. He expected additional coverage of the area might be provided by available Maine State Police officers.
The sheriff is expecting color guard and bagpipe units from the Maine State Police, as well as other state agencies and associations, to take part. Final details of the service were still being worked out late Thursday.
Law enforcement agencies across the state will be advised of the plans via teletype from the Somerset County department, Delong said.
The investigation into Baker’s accident is continuing, Delong said.
“Until we get through Tuesday, I haven’t thought much about it,” he said, explaining the extensive study of a fatal accident is very detailed and time-consuming.
The investigation is being handled by the Maine State Police under the direction of Lt. Dale Lancaster, commander of Troop C in Skowhegan. Lancaster was not available Thursday to discuss the investigation.
Baker is the 75th Maine police officer, and the second deputy from the Somerset County Sheriff’s Department, to be killed in the line of duty.