Court records reveal how Washburn cop allegedly altered police reports

1 month ago

Former Washburn Police Sgt. Chandler Cole allegedly used an electronic records system to alter his reports on missing Washburn man Erik Foote, which ultimately caught the attention of other law enforcement officials and led to Cole’s March 29 arrest on charges of falsifying police reports, according to newly released records.

Cole allegedly made those alterations in a records system called Spillman, after picking Foote up on a Washburn road on Jan. 30 and taking him to a Freshies convenience store in Presque Isle, according to court records.

Every law enforcement department in Aroostook County uses the Spillman system, which was instituted about two years ago, Sheriff Peter Johnson said in an interview. Incident reports contain the full original account as well as each change made, and they identify every person who amended the report.

“They have the ability to be able to go in and edit that record,” Johnson said Wednesday. “Even though you can go in and edit the records, those are actually recorded by the system. You can see the way it originally was, and then what edits were made.”

Washburn’s Interim Police Chief Cyr Martin noted discrepancies in Cole’s reporting about Erik Foote on Jan. 30, the last day Foote was seen, and he requested private investigator Darrell Crandall conduct an internal investigation, according to court records. 

Crandall, a former Aroostook County sheriff who served for 35 years in law enforcement, heads the Maine and Florida investigative firm Edgewater Reliance, LLC. 

A number of the new details about Cole’s case came from an arrest affidavit that includes a report by Deputy Nathan Chisholm, who was asked to review the case and determine whether Cole had committed crimes.

Chisholm’s report notes that on Feb. 6, Erik Foote’s father, Allan Foote, called Cole at the police station to ask where his son was. Cole allegedly responded that he had taken Erik Foote to Northern Light A.R. Gould Hospital in Presque Isle. 

The hospital told Allan Foote his son had not been there, and he called the Presque Isle Police Department and the Houlton Regional Communications Center, who both noted the police report said Cole had taken Erik to Freshies. Allan Foote then called Cole again and accused him of lying, according to Chisholm’s report.

The police investigation also revealed that on Feb. 6, a person with Cole’s Spillman ID allegedly changed the report on Erik Foote from saying, “He wants to go to PI so I am going to give him a ride to Freshies,” to “He wants to go to PI hospital,” according to court records.

Cole allegedly reported several other details of the interaction, including that he had asked Erik Foote if he could help, and that Foote said he was upset about his daughter missing in Arizona. 

According to Chisholm’s records, Cole reportedly asked if Foote was depressed, and he said yes. Cole then reportedly asked if Foote had any ideas about hurting himself or anyone else, and he said no.

Cole’s incident report about Foote allegedly continued, “He was coherent and communicating well with me. I transported Erik to A.R. Gould Hospital in Presque Isle and dropped him off at the front door to the emergency room where he thanked me for helping him. No further action taken.”

Crandall believed Cole had changed his records in anticipation of an investigation being conducted, according to Chisholm’s report.

The report also indicated that Cole told Washburn’s interim chief Martin that he had taken Foote to the hospital, but told another officer he had taken him to Freshies. 

Crandall obtained security footage from Freshies, which confirmed that Cole did indeed drop Foote off there, according to Chisholm.

Sheriff Johnson said that he had not seen that footage. 

Cole was arrested at his Washburn residence, Johnson said. After completing paperwork at the Caribou courthouse, Cole was released on $2,500 bail, unsecured.

Through the Freedom of Access Act, the BDN obtained records detailing Cole’s law enforcement history from Shannon Moss, spokesperson for the Maine Department of Public Safety. 

Cole spent a number of years as a police officer in Florida, completing basic training in 1996, working for a year at the Brooksville Police Department and moving on to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office from August 1997 to September 2006, Moss said.

Details were not provided about his work from 2006 until 2020, when he completed Maine Criminal Justice Academy training requirements. Cole started working part-time for the Washburn Police Department in April 2020 and became full-time in August 2020, Moss said. 

Cole has not worked for any other law enforcement agencies in Maine, according to Moss.

This is not Cole’s first brush with the law. While a sheriff’s deputy in Florida in April 2001, he was arrested on domestic battery charges following an incident at a Fraternal Order of Police event, according to the Tampa Bay Times.  

The Bangor Daily News obtained records from the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office confirming the incident. The case was dropped because the person who initiated the complaint did not press charges, according to the records. 

Staff writer Melissa Lizotte contributed to this report.