The man charged with robbing Shaw’s Supermarket in Bangor Friday is listed by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons’ inmate locator website as “absconded” and apparently wanted to return to prison.
George Frederick Gatcomb Jr., 69, was on federal probation at a re-entry center in Bangor when he allegedly left without permission June 12, according to documents filed in the U.S. District Court in Bangor. The federal re-entry center for men is located on the Dorothea Dix campus.
Gatcomb may have been familiar with the facility. In the mid-1970s, Gatcomb, a Vietnam veteran, was committed to what was then called the Bangor Mental Health Institute. He escaped from there 21 times, according to the Bangor Daily News archives.
On Friday, Gatcomb allegedly entered the supermarket on Main Street about 8:20 a.m. and gave an employee a note demanding money, according to Bangor police. Gatcomb claimed to have a gun but no weapon was found when he was arrested a few minutes later outside the building without incident, police said.
He made his first court appearance Monday afternoon at the Penobscot Judicial Center by video conference from the Penobscot County Jail in Bangor.
Gatcomb, who is charged with Class B robbery, has spent the past 42 years in federal prison, Suzanne Russell, assistant district attorney for Penobscot County, told District Court Judge Patrick Larson. She requested bail be set at $10,000 cash, which the judge did. Gatcomb did not object to that amount of bail Monday.
Russell said the Shaw’s service desk employee that Gatcomb handed the note to told him she had no money, turned around, walked into the back room and called police. Gatcomb, who told police he’d been living at a homeless shelter, left the store and waited outside for Bangor police to arrive.
Christopher Whalley of Ellsworth, who represented Gatcomb at Monday’s brief proceeding, told Larson that Gatcomb had trouble adjusting to being out of prison.
“He told me that after such a lengthy incarceration, things weren’t working out,” Whalley said.
The judge did not ask Gatcomb to enter a plea because he has not yet been indicted by the Penobscot County grand jury. The grand jury next convenes July 25.
Gatcomb is next due in court Sept. 5.
He began serving three years of federal supervised release May 16, federal court documents said. He was to spend up to six months at the start of his supervised release in “community confinement” at the re-entry center.
The conditions of Gatcomb’s supervised release were modified shortly before his release from prison to include mental health and sex offender treatment. He also was prevented from possessing a gun or other dangerous weapons, according to court documents.
His supervised release conditions also includes periodic polygraph examinations “to assist in treatment and/or case planning related to behaviors potentially associated with sex offense conduct,” a federal court document said.
Gatcomb was sentenced on Feb. 20, 1997, in U.S. District Court in Bangor to five years in federal prison after he admitted to threatening federal and state judges three years earlier, according to the Bangor Daily News archives. He threatened to blow up the U.S. Marshal’s Office, located in the Margaret Chase Smith Federal Building on Harlow Street.
Gatcomb was ordered to serve the federal sentence after he completed a 15-year sentence on state charges for a sexual assault on a cellmate at the Maine State Prison, then located in Thomaston. Gatcomb also was ordered to serve eight years in Maine for an assault on a corrections officer once he completed the sentence for the sexual assault.
If convicted of the Shaw’s robbery, Gatcomb faces up to 10 years in a Maine prison. In addition, his federal supervised release could be revoked and he could be sent back to federal prison.
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