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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Gustaf Kilander

Maine shooting suspect Joseph Eaton was released from prison four days before rampage


The suspect in the Maine shootings was released from prison just four days before he allegedly went on a rampage, shooting and killing four people at a home and wounding another three people while driving down a highway.

Suspect Joseph Eaton, 34, left the Maine Correctional Center in Windham on Friday. He was sentenced in March 2021, according to the director of governmental affairs for the Maine Department of Corrections, Anna Black. He had been serving a sentence after a probation violation, the state official said on Wednesday, the Associated Press reported.

Following his 14 April release, Mr Eaton was arrested on Tuesday after four bodies were found in a home on Augusta Road in Bowdoin. The killings have been connected to the highway shooting in which three people were injured later on Tuesday about 20 miles away in Yarmouth.

While Mr Eaton has been charged with four counts of murder, he hasn’t yet been charged in connection to the highway shooting. One of those shot on the highway remained in critical condition on Wednesday.

State records reveal that Mr Eaton had a criminal history which meant that he couldn’t legally own a firearm.

Mr Eaton’s criminal past begins in 2008 in Kansas when he was charged with burglary. He was sentenced in 2009 and released in 2010.

He was sentenced to three years behind bars in May 2018 after being charged with three counts of aggravated assault of a first responder in Nassau County, Florida.

Within a month of being released on 15 February 2021, he was sentenced on 1 March for an assault in Maine.

When he left prison on Friday, he had been sent back following a probation violation.

Mr Eaton has been sent to jail while he waits to attend a court hearing. Officials at the jail said it wasn’t clear if he had a lawyer to speak on his behalf.

The victims have not been named and the authorities haven’t announced a possible motive. The four bodies found at the home in Bowdoin have been transported for autopsies and positive identification by the state medical examiner’s office in Augusta, the AP noted.

Bowdoinham resident Ian Halsey told the news agency that two of his cousins had been shot and that his uncle had been wounded by shrapnel in the highway shooting in Yarmouth. No one in the family knew the shooter, he said.

“They were just passersby in the wrong place at the wrong time,” he told the AP. “It’s horrible what happened.”

Over the course of the last decade, Mr Eaton was charged with over a half-dozen offences, with an assault charge leading to him spending eight months behind bars last year. The aggravated assault conviction would have prevented him from legally owning a firearm.

Maine Governor Janet Mills, a Democrat, tweeted that “like people across Maine, I am shocked and deeply saddened -- acts of violence like we experienced today shake our state and our communities to the core”.

“My thoughts are with the families, friends and loved ones of those impacted by this tragedy, and I am praying for the quick recovery of those who are hospitalized,” she added. “There is still much to learn, but I am grateful to the quick response of State, county, and local law enforcement to protect Maine people.”

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