The Lee Police Department responded to reports of gunshots fired at the Lee Marketplace on Saturday, Oct. 17, according to a press release. Lee PD were dispatched to the area at 11:45 a.m. where they found a lone male with a handgun standing by a parked vehicle.
The suspect was later identified as 27-year-old Gordon Falt, believed to be from the Bar Harbor, Maine area. Police established a perimeter and instructed all the stores to initiate lockdown when Falt refused to comply with verbal commands. Eleven outside agencies were called to assist at the scene, including the Durham Police Department. There were no further gunshots after the initial report and no injuries resulted from the incident.
Eyewitness Nathan Fredette said that the police were excellent in setting up a perimeter and approaching Falt with caution. Fredette was outside for the duration of the lockdown, watching from his spot near the Postal Center.
“Our main goal from the start was to make sure everyone was safe,” said Lieutenant Donald Laliberte from the Lee PD.
Customer Tim Sourdif was shopping for the week ahead at Market Basket, when the store manager reported on the intercom that there was an active shooter situation outside and they would need to lock down. The manager calmly told everyone there was no need to panic.
Employee Grace Morrisette was just about to finish her shift when she heard the news. “It was terrifying, even more since it was the first time something like that has happened to me.”
Sourdif said the message was rather nonchalant, “almost like announcing a sale on eggs … It took a few seconds I think for all of us to let the message sink in. There was an active shooter outside.”
“I couldn’t comprehend the message,” said Laurie Grant who was exercising at Planet Fitness during the lockdown. She reported that the music had been too loud for people to hear the gunshots. Grant witnessed the gunman holding the handgun to his head. “I will never get that image out of my head,” she said.
From outside, Fredette tried to warn others without putting himself in harm’s way.
Morrisette worried that the gunman would try to enter Market Basket. She was nervous because she didn’t know any details.
“I tried to keep my calm as best as I could,” Morrisette said.
Sourdif kept shopping, while some of the other customers migrated to the back of the store.
Morrisette saw everyone on their phones. Some were sharing with customers who didn’t have phones so they could contact loved ones. Morrisette texted her family and friends that she was okay, warning them not to come near the area.
Sourdif realized that his neighbor’s daughter was working as a cashier. “She was a little nervous and her phone was dead, so I let her use mine to call her parents,” he said. “I decided to stay with her through this.”
From the front of the store, Sourdif could see the heavy police presence outside. He observed police from every level of law enforcement. A SWAT team behind a Bearcat vehicle were trying to locate the shooter in the parking lot.
Morrisette’s bosses locked the doors and closed the blinds on the windows. She stayed in the back room with her coworkers, checking social media to find dozens of updates on the situation.
She saw rumors that Falt fired seven shots into the air from his pickup truck before exiting the vehicle. When police arrived, Falt allegedly started placing items from inside his truck onto the vehicle’s bed. He refused to surrender to police for over two hours.
“I had confidence in the law enforcement,” said Morrisette. “But I didn’t know what the man was trying to do, and what his intentions were.”
A smaller section of the Lee Police escorted a woman in her 90’s from her spot in the parking lot into the Market Basket during the situation. Sourdif said that people clapped and cheered when she came inside.
“Very cool,” said Sourdif. “She sat down and asked for a root beer.”
Morrisette and other employees remained calm while distributing food and drinks to customers. They gave coloring books to children and brought shopping carts into their back rooms to keep customer’s items refrigerated. Management kept customers updated and ensured that employees were accounted for.
“Market Basket management did wonderfully,” said Sourdif. “From getting the old woman her root beer to getting chairs for folks.”
About an hour had passed when everyone was instructed to go to the back of the store.
“At this point I got a little nervous but heck, it is what it is,” said Sourdif. He joked with others “about how much 2020 sucks.”
Sourdif noted the irony that he could see social distancing signs meant to keep six feet between customers, while they were “all jammed up at the back of the store.” Many customers opened their groceries and began eating, Sourdif called it “funny in a stressful environment.”
Morrisette’s manager continued to give updates on the intercom about what was happening, keeping in contact with the police.
The Lee PD press release reported that the Falt was taken into custody at approximately 1:40 pm. The store lockdown was finally lifted around 2:15 pm.
“Police came in and said we could leave,” said Sourdif, noting that it was followed by cheers and clapping.
Morrisette quickly returned customers’ shopping carts and left. Several officers and police vehicles were scattered around the parking lot. Her car was outside the liquor store, where she could see a police officer rummaging through Falt’s truck.
Morrisette saw Falt’s green, flat-brimmed hat on the ground, just 10 feet from her car. She wondered if there were more suspects on the loose. “I was still freaked out, even more than I was before.”
Sourdif’s vehicle was parked directly opposite from Falt’s pickup truck. He could see shell casings on the ground and guns in the driver’s seat. “That freaked me out some … I suppose this could have turned out very differently.”
“Of course, the outcome was as good as it could be,” said Sourdif. On his way to leave, Sourdif saw an ATF agent and thanked him. “It was amazing to see how many departments mobilized.”
“[The police] absolutely kept everyone safe,” said Grant. “I am so grateful that no one got hurt, including the shooter.”
“We are all very thankful that no one was injured from this incident,” said Lieutenant Laliberte.
Lt. Laliberte said the situation was unusual, but the Lee PD regularly attends Active-Shooter training, “and in this case, our training paid off.”
The adrenaline finally left Sourdif’s body an hour after he got home. “I was wrecked [from] operating at a heightened level under great stress for over two hours. I felt like I had been doing hard labor all day.”
“You can’t predict these things,” said Fredette, noting that he couldn’t let fear prevent him from his daily needs. He returned to Market Basket to finish his shopping after Falt was taken into custody.
Falt was transported to Wentworth Douglass Hospital as a precautionary measure, according to the press release. He was charged with multiple counts of Reckless Conduct (Felony), Receiving Stolen Property (Felony and Misdemeanor), and Felon in Possession of a Dangerous Weapon. He currently remains held without bail.
Sourdif returned to the Lee Marketplace last Saturday, a week after the incident.
“The thought did cross my mind and it came up when I went through the cashier,” Sourdif said. “They were there last week as well. Something we have in common now.”
Photo Courtesy of Sarah Levine