Former Washburn police officer falsified reports in case of missing man, cops say

2 months ago

A former Washburn police sergeant has been arrested for falsifying reports surrounding the disappearance of a local man, authorities said. 

Chandler Cole, 54, was arrested by the Aroostook County Sheriff’s Office on March 29 and charged with aggravated forgery, tampering with public records or information, falsifying physical evidence and unsworn falsification, according to court records. 

The arrest is the latest development in the months-long missing person case of Erik Foote that has gripped the town of approximately 1,500 residents. Foote was reported missing in February. He was last seen near Freshies in Presque Isle, the sheriff’s office said.

Cole was still working for the police when he encountered Foote and was the last to see him, according to court records. 

The search for missing Washburn man Erik Foote, above, has resulted in the arrest of a former Washburn Police officer on charges of falsifying records. (Courtesy of Aroostook County Sheriff’s Office)

Washburn police had been investigating Foote’s disappearance. When potential discrepancies were noted in Cole’s reporting on the incident, the department launched an investigation, Washburn Police Chief Cyr Martin said Wednesday. 

Police hired a private investigator and placed Cole on administrative leave with pay, Martin said.

The investigator was Darrell Crandall of Florida-based Edgewater Reliance, according to court records. Crandall, a former Aroostook County sheriff who served for 35 years in law enforcement, heads the firm.

Cole didn’t cooperate with the investigation, according to Martin.

“The investigator tried to interview him. On Feb. 23, he refused to meet with the investigator,” Martin said. “It was a couple of days after that that he called me and resigned.”

The sheriff’s office took over Foote’s case on Feb. 8, and the probe into Cole started soon after, Sheriff Peter Johnson said. 

“We ended up finding some information through that investigation that led us to believe there was a criminal course of conduct that Mr. Cole ended up participating in, and we requested a warrant for his arrest,” Johnson said.

Bail was set at $2,500 unsecured, which means Cole remains free and pays if he doesn’t show up for court, the sheriff said. 

Cole is set to appear at Maine District Court in Presque Isle on May 8.

In a report filed with the court, Deputy Nathan Chisholm said Johnson asked him on March 14 to review the investigation and determine whether there was criminal conduct on Cole’s part.  

The investigation appeared to indicate that Cole lied when Foote’s father contacted him to inquire about his son. While Cole’s police reports said he had dropped Foote at Freshies, he told Allan Foote he had dropped his son off at A.R. Gould Memorial Hospital in Presque Isle, court records state.

Cole then allegedly altered his police reports to indicate he had taken Foote to the hospital, according to Chisholm’s report. Chisholm agreed with investigators that there had been criminal conduct and requested a warrant for Cole’s arrest on the four charges, according to court records.

A social media message to Cole was not immediately returned.

Foote is still missing. Family and friends organized the social media page Help Bring Erik Foote Home, which frequently posts search updates and pleas for assistance.

The sheriff’s office is still investigating, Johnson said. He estimated around 50 tips have come in over the last two months and personnel have interviewed more than 80 people about the case.

“We are still following up on a few other things,” Johnson said. “We have a few electronic devices that we’re looking into to see if that might give us direction.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Aroostook County Sheriff’s Office at 1-800-432-7842.