Robert F. Bukati/AP
BOWDOIN, Maine — Four people were fatally shot at a Maine home Tuesday, shortly before a shooting wounded three others on a busy highway, in two crimes that are connected, authorities said. Hours later, the man was charged with murder.
Police closed part of the interstate and residents and businesses in the area were ordered to shelter in place for about 90 minutes before authorities determined there was no threat to the general public.
The shootings are among a string of recent mass killings that have rocked communities large and small, including a Christian elementary school in Nashville, Tennessee; a bank in Louisville, Kentucky and a Sweet 16 party in a small town in Alabama.
In Maine, police charged Joseph Eaton, 34, of Bowdoin with four counts of murder Tuesday night, but declined to discuss a possible motive for the shooting or identify the shooting victims. Ethan was expected to appear in court later this week.
The crimes began in Bowdoin County, where the bodies were found, and continued with a shooting 25 miles (40 kilometers) south on Interstate 295 in Yarmouth, police said. One of the three victims on the highway was seriously injured, police said.
Law enforcement officers, some with long rifles, could be seen canvassing areas near the freeway after the shooting. At one point, heavily armed police officers on a ramp peered into the trunk of a car that had obvious bullet holes in the windshield. Police said a person of interest was taken into custody and witnesses saw one person in handcuffs.
In Bowdoin, a farming community of about 3,000 residents, yellow crime tape hung where the shootings happened, a wooded home at the end of a long gravel driveway. About 10 marked and unmarked law enforcement vehicles and a crime scene van were parked outside as investigators moved around.
At one point, a woman spoke to police outside the house before falling to her knees and sobbing. Hearses were later seen leaving the driveway.
The town of Bowdoin is not affiliated with Bowdoin College, which is located about 10 miles (16 kilometers) away in the town of Brunswick.
Maine Governor Janet Mills tweeted her concern for “the families, friends and loved ones of those affected by this tragedy.” She said she was praying for the injured.
“Like the people of Maine, I am shocked and deeply saddened. Acts of violence like the ones we experienced today shake our state and our communities to their core,” she said.
In Yarmouth, traffic was backed up on the interstate as police closed the southbound lanes. The highway was reopened later Tuesday, except for one exit where police were checking the car.
Employees at Water Treatment Equipment Inc., a business near the highway, locked the doors and pulled down the blinds after being alerted to the blockade, which lasted about an hour and a half, manager Kim Snyder said. Workers saw cars backing up on the freeway, along with police cars, ambulances and fire trucks.
“It definitely changed the day and the worry set in,” she said. “They hadn’t caught the active shooter. We didn’t know what was going on.”
Lenora Felker, who works near the freeway at Rosemont Market and Bakery, said she sensed something was up when people started pouring in, saying the freeway was closed, followed by dozens of law enforcement officers who descended on the area.
Officers began asking if they had seen “anybody wet and muddy running,” Felker said. But she knew all the customers and saw nothing unusual, she said.