JACKMAN — A deputy who was at the secluded camp when 51-year-old Katherine Hegarty was shot and killed last week said Wednesday that the officers involved were afraid she might be suicidal, and decided to enter the camp when they thought she was away from her gun.
Thomas Giroux, a part-time deputy with the Somerset County Sheriff’s Department, said that at one point “she was lying in bed with the gun across her lap. We didn’t know what her intentions were.
“I know it sounds terrible, but I think we were used,” Giroux said during an interview from his Jackman home.
Giroux, a longtime friend of the Hegartys, said the officers did what they had to do under the circumstances.
“This was the last thing in the world we wanted to happen,” he said.
Giroux was the first to arrive at the truck stop where four fishermen had taken refuge after fleeing from their campsite just 125 feet from Hegarty’s camp. The fishermen said that Hegarty had fired numerous shots from her front porch, and then chased them from the area.
Giroux awaited the arrival of Sgt. Wilfred Hines, a Somerset County deputy, and Trooper Gary Wright of the Maine State Police. The officers put on their bullet-proof vests at the truck stop. Giroux did not have one and borrowed one from Wright, he said.
He disputed statements from one of the fishermen, Robert Day of Alfred, who told reporters about a week after the incident that he overheard the officers say they were going into the camp and “take her out.”
Giroux remembered a short briefing in the parking lot during which Hines or Wright cautioned the other officers about the situation.
They said, “Look, we know she’s a crack shot. If something goes bad and we have to take her, don’t hesitate. Don’t wait for somebody to get hurt. If we have to, don’t hesitate just because she’s a woman,” Giroux related.
When the officers arrived, Giroux stood in the driveway in front of the camp and tried to talk to Hegarty while the other officers positioned themselves around the camp.
An unidentified deputy was outside Hegarty’s window and after about 15 minutes with no verbal response, he shined his flashlight into her bedroom. The deputy told the others that she was lying on the bed with the rifle across her lap. He ducked when he saw her begin to raise the rifle in his direction and he shut off his flashlight, Giroux said.
Giroux then heard Hegarty holler out, “How do I know what your intentions are?”
“I said, `Kathy you know me. My intentions are honorable,’ ” Giroux related.
The officers never saw her move from the bedroom to the living room, Giroux said. The next contact they had with her was a few minutes later when she pressed her face near the front window and spotted Somerset Deputy Rene Guay.
“She said, `I see you there,’ and that’s when he (Guay) shines his flashlight inside,” Giroux said.
Hegarty was kneeling near the couch below the window where Guay was positioned with a shotgun. She was smiling, Giroux said.
He said Guay and Hines had earlier told Hegarty they were there, introduced themselves and tried to convince her to leave the cabin.
It was Guay who attempted to convince her to leave the cabin by telling her that the police were looking into some area camp break-ins. Guay asked her if she had seen four campers in the area that might have been involved in the break-ins and Hegarty told him she hadn’t seen anyone, Giroux said.
“Trooper Wright didn’t say anything because they’d had a run-in before and they didn’t want to anger her, so he kept quiet,” Giroux said.
A few minutes later, Guay yelled to Hines and Wright who were positioned at the front door.
“He said, `I don’t see a gun. Go for it,’ ” Giroux remembered.
Hines and Wright charged into the door, but the chain lock prevented it from opening all the way. In the few seconds it took the officers to push the door again and get through it, Hegarty had picked up the rifle, Giroux said.
“I heard them yell `Put the gun down, put the gun down. Put it down.’ But she just stood there and smiled and kept raising it. When it got into the position where it was aimed right at those two guys, they fired,” he said.
That all took place within a couple of seconds, Giroux said.
The shots from the three officers were fired so close together that it wasn’t until Giroux got inside that he realized three shots had been fired.
“I could’ve sworn only one shot was fired,” he said.
Giroux said if the door had opened on the first try, the shooting would not have occurred.
“We never saw her go into the living room. We thought she might have left the gun in the bedroom, but come to find out she had brought it with her and hid it under the couch,” Giroux said.
After the shooting, the officers found a note tacked on the inside of the door. Giroux said they looked at the note and he saw it made some reference to Katherine’s husband, Jack Hegarty, but they didn’t read it. The note was seized as evidence by the state Attorney General’s Office.
On Wednesday, Attorney General Michael Carpenter said the note was not a suicide note, but was a kind of “rambling.” He said it was the kind of note that seemed to be left there for someone who might go to the camp and find it locked up.
“It did contain some obscenities,” Carpenter said.
The suicide theory, however, seems to contradict statements made by Jack Hegarty who said his wife called him and his two sons on the day of the shooting.
Jack Hegarty said his wife was in good spirits and was thrilled about a trip she planned to embark on the following day. She planned to make a circuitous trip back to Florida, and had made up itinerary cards and sent them to a friend in Maine and relatives in Massachusetts, and a sister in Wisconsin.
“She was bubbling with joy,” Jack Hegarty said.
Giroux acknowledged that the officers were not sure that suicide was her intention, but at the time it was a concern for them.
“Hindsight is 20/20, but the way the circumstances presented themselves, in my opinion, I think we did what we had to do. It was a terrible thing that happened. There is no reward in this,” Giroux said.
The Attorney General’s Office is scheduled to release the results of the investigation during a press conference on Thursday in Augusta.