Police Chief Michael DeLena and the town of Fort Kent awarded teacher Derrick Cooper with a community hero award on Monday. From left, are, Chief Michael DeLena, Derrick Cooper, his wife Bianca Cooper and their son Jamaal. Credit: Courtesy of the town of Fort Kent

FORT KENT, Maine — When Fort Kent teacher Derrick Cooper thought he saw a man walking downtown on Thanksgiving carrying an ax, he turned his car around for another look.

“He had an ax on his shoulder and he looked really upset and he was walking in the direction of where I lived,” Cooper said. “My initial thought was that I didn’t want him coming anywhere close to my family.”

Cooper, 40, helped Fort Kent police officer Daniel “D.J.” Plourde by handcuffing the man after Cooper saw him allegedly threaten and become combative with the officer, who eventually wrestled the man to the ground.

As a result of Cooper’s actions, Fort Kent Police Chief Michael DeLena and the town recognized Cooper with a community hero award.

Cooper teaches special education at Fort Kent Community High School, where he has worked for the past decade. He also trains and competes in powerlifting.  

Police officers often answer calls alone. Cooper’s message is that the public should be quicker to help out if it’s obvious an officer may need assistance and to not be influenced by national headlines about cops.

Police charged the man, Sylvio Plourde, 36, with violation of conditions of release, disorderly conduct, criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon, refusal to submit to arrest, criminal mischief and assault.

Police had received multiple reports on Nov. 24 from people in town about a man walking around with an ax and making verbal threats to kill people, including police, DeLena said.

D.J. Plourde located Sylvio Plourde on Market Street and tried to talk to him about the reports, DeLena said. The situation escalated and the officer used his taser on the man, but it didn’t subdue him, the chief said.

The older model taser may have been defective, and the town had already approved the purchase of new tasers, which had not arrived as of Thanksgiving, according to DeLena.

Sylvio Plourde then allegedly threatened to retrieve an ax while fleeing from D.J. Plourde. The officer tackled him to the ground and held him by the wrists. Sylvio Plourde remained combative with the officer while Cooper handcuffed him.

“I just have a respect for law enforcement and my instincts will always tell me to help,” Cooper said. “We should be supportive of our law enforcement and military by all means. They keep us safe in this country.”

Cooper said police officers on the whole have received a negative reputation in our country due to the bad actions of a few in that profession.

DeLena presented Cooper with a plaque and his gratitude Monday in the presence of Cooper’s wife, Bianca, and the couple’s two-and-a-half-year-old son Jamaal.

“With the stigma attached to social media, people are prone to get out their cell phones and record rather than help,” DeLena said. “I wanted to recognize Derrick in his compassion to help.”

Sylvio Plourde is being held at the Aroostook County Jail.