Louisiana fugitive captured in Shiretown

12 years ago

NE-CLR-Fugitive-dcx-pt-29Benjamin Gottke
By Joseph Cyr
Staff Writer

    HOULTON — A Louisiana man was back in police custody after town-wide manhunt Saturday.
    Benjamin Allen Gottke, 43, had been at-large since Thursday, when he escaped from the Tensas Parish Detention Center in Waterproof, La., where he was being incarcerated for burglary.
    Gottke made his initial appearance in Aroostook County District Court Monday, where he contested his extradition back to Louisiana, according to Assistant District Attorney Kurt Kafferlin. Gottke requested a formal hearing, which is presently slated for Aug. 7 in Houlton Superior Court. He is charged in Maine with being a fugitive from justice and resisting arrest.
    “At the hearing, the state will be required to show with certified documents that there is an outstanding warrant for Mr. Gottke out of the state of Louisiana and that the person in custody here in Aroostook County is the same Benjamin Gottke,” Kafferlin said. “If the state shows such then Mr. Gottke can continue to be held while the Tensas County District Attorney’s Office requests a governor’s warrant. A governor’s warrant is required to extradite Mr. Gottke as long as he contests extradition.
    “Through that process the Tensas County District Attorney’s Office will ask the governor of the state of Louisiana to subsequently ask Governor Paul LePage to issue a governor’s warrant for Gottke’s arrest here in the state of Maine,” he continued. “Once Gottke is arrested on a governor’s warrant he can be extradited soon thereafter. The Aroostook County District Attorney’s Office is currently working with Louisiana authorities to properly and expeditiously return Mr. Gottke to the state of Louisiana to face his charges there.”
    According to the Natchez Democrat’s online edition, Gottke escaped from the Tensas Parish Detention Center Thursday evening and stole a 2002 white Ford Crown Victoria unmarked police cruiser. He was serving time for burglary and had nine months left on his sentence. He was also soon to be eligible for work release. Gottke is a resident of Newellton, La. and was an inmate worker at the Tensas Parish Detention Center.
    Exactly how Gottke was able to finance the roughly 2,000-mile trip from Louisiana to Houlton, a three-day journey that would require multiple stops for refueling, as well as overnight stays, was not known by Houlton police, Lt. Dan Pelletier said. The only marking on the cruiser was a sheriff’s star on the rear of the vehicle.
    At 2:35 p.m. Saturday, the suspect presented himself for inspection at the Houlton Port of Entry, according to Michele Benson-Fuller, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) public affairs officer.
    “The CBP officer requested identification, when the suspect indicated he did not have anything to present,” she said. “When the CBP officer requested the suspect to turn the vehicle’s ignition off and to see the vehicle’s registration, the suspect accelerated the vehicle and fled the port, heading south on I-95. CBP officers contacted their sister agencies — the US Border Patrol and the Houlton Air Branch as well as our law enforcement partners for assistance.”
    The U.S. Border Patrol provided ATV, K9 and foot patrol and the Houlton Air Branch provided air support, working in conjunction with the Houlton Police Department, Aroostook County Sheriff’s Department and the Maine State Police in searching for the suspect.
    At approximately 3:30 p.m., Border Patrol agents located the abandoned vehicle at the Irving Truck Stop in Houlton. The search then shifted to searching for an individual on foot. Pelletier said prior to the notification by CBP that an individual had fled the port of entry, Houlton police were not aware of any escaped individual in the state. It wasn’t until they located the vehicle that they learned the vehicle had been stolen.
    Notices were put out through the local television and radio stations, as well as the social networking site, Facebook. Those reports warned people that Gottke was armed and dangerous and somewhere in Houlton. Gottke was reportedly seen walking through a number of residential streets before his apprehension.
    At 9:16 p.m., HPD received a tip of a suspicious person in the area of Park Street. Sgt. Eric Crouse responded to the area and observed an individual walking along the street that matched the description of the wanted man.
    Sgt. Crouse observed the man was armed only with a large stick.
    “Sgt. Crouse ordered Mr. Gottke to drop the stick, but he did not,” Pelletier said. “He was actually brandishing the stick like it was a baseball bat and told the officer he would have to shoot him. The officer advised Gottke several times to put the stick down, but he refused. He then made a move toward Sgt. Crouse, at which point he deployed his taser.”
    Despite being hit with the stun gun, Gottke continued to resist and was stunned a second time. Crouse managed to subdue Gottke before additional backup could arrive.
    Gottke will now be charged with aggravated escape and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, as well as the fugitive of justice and resisting arrest charges in Houlton.
    “This is a great example of CBP and local law enforcement diligently working together to keep our community safe,” Benson-Fuller said.