Deputy Luke Gross of the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department was reaching down to pick up a piece of debris from a crash that had happened minutes before when he was fatally struck from behind by a pickup truck, according to a Maine State Police crash report.
Gross, 44, was wearing a high-visibility vest and was bending over in the northbound travel lane when he was hit by the truck on Route 3 in Trenton at 5:13 a.m. on Thursday, about an hour before sunrise. Gross had parked his cruiser in the breakdown lane on the northbound side of the road, and had activated its emergency lights when he got out to clear debris from the roadway, state police have said.
The state police report does not say if visibility was an issue for the driver — Timothy Badger, 55, of Levant — but the fact that Gross was bending over in the travel lane and facing away from the truck raises the possibility that his vest was not as visible as it may have been if he were standing upright.
Shannon Moss, spokesperson for Maine State Police, declined on Monday to comment on the specific information in the crash report. She said the full investigation into the crash is expected to take “several weeks” to complete.
The crash report, which is available online for a fee, “is of limited scope and detail,” Moss said. “It is not meant to provide the full details which will be forthcoming” when the full investigation is finished, she said.
The initial crash report says Badger was not distracted, that his condition at the time of the collision was “apparently normal,” and that he had not taken any action in driving the truck that contributed to causing the crash. State police have said they do not expect to file any charges against Badger.
Badger did not respond Monday to a message on social media seeking comment about the crash. A person who answered the door at Badger’s home on Monday said that Badger was not home and did not want to comment.
Gross suffered “significant” injuries in the collision and died at the scene.
Gross had been called to the scene on Route 3 in front of Penobscot Cleaning Services early Thursday morning for a report of a single-vehicle crash. That vehicle had left the scene, leaving behind scattered debris in the roadway.
The driver of that vehicle, Thorin Smith, 20, of Bar Harbor, was found around 9 a.m. Thursday sleeping in his Honda CRV “a short distance” away from the crash scene in Route 3, police have said. He has been charged with leaving the scene of an accident, illegal use of drug paraphernalia and illegal possession of alcohol by a minor.
A Bucksport native, Gross had worked for the sheriff’s department since 2003. Law enforcement officials and people who worked or interacted with Gross have praised him for his compassion, professionalism and community engagement.
The deputy is at least the 87th Maine law enforcement officer to be killed in the line of duty since the early 1800s. His death comes more than two years after Maine State Police Detective Benjamin Campbell was fatally struck by a tractor-trailer tire while assisting a motorist on Interstate 95 in Hampden, and three years after Somerset County sheriff’s Deputy Eugene Cole was shot to death by John D. Williams in Norridgewock.
Before Gross, the most recent such deaths for the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department occurred in 1911, when two deputies drowned in Green Lake after their boat capsized while they were conducting a burglary investigation, according to Officer Down Memorial Page.
His funeral is expected to draw a heavy turnout from law enforcement officers throughout the state. That’s scheduled to be held at noon Thursday, Sept. 30 at Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.
BDN writer David Marino Jr. contributed to this report.