Sean Halsey speaks to reporters outside Maine Medical Center in Portland on Friday about the day he and his children were shot in their car while going to get groceries in Yarmouth. Police later took Joseph Eaton, 34, into custody and say he confessed to killing four people in Bowdoin, before shooting at the Halseys' vehicle. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

PORTLAND, Maine — Sean Halsey and his two children were on their way to get groceries when their car was hit by a hail of gunfire at 10:30 a.m. on April 19 on Interstate 295 in Yarmouth.

“We started hearing some pops, and we weren’t sure what it was,” Halsey of Bowdoinham told reporters outside Maine Medical Center on Friday. “Then the back window exploded, and we heard more. They obviously were gunshots. So I accelerated until I couldn’t hear them anymore.”

Halsey’s son, Justin Halsey, 29, was shot in the back. His daughter, Paige Halsey, 25, was shot in her side. Sean Halsey’s hand was wounded from shrapnel flying around the car.

Justin and Sean Halsey have since been released from the hospital. But Sean Halsey said his daughter, though out of intensive care, has a long road to recovery ahead of her.

The morning of the shooting, police took Joseph Eaton, 34, into custody between mile marker 15 and 17 on I-295. Police say he later confessed to killing four people in Bowdoin, including his parents, then shot at the Halseys’ vehicle on the highway because he believed he was being followed by police.

Halsey said he’s not sure if the gunshots came from another car or someone standing beside the road. He just remembers the chaotic sounds of the gunshots and the broken glass.

After speeding away, he eventually pulled over and tried to tend to his childrens’ wounds, but it wasn’t long before first responders arrived and took over, he said.

“I mean, it seemed like it was forever just because it was such an intense moment,” Halsey said. “The [Yarmouth] police were there first and they were amazing.”

Halsey said he credits first responders and hospital staff with saving his childrens’ lives.

“They may not be here if it wasn’t for them,” he said. “They say they’re just doing their jobs. But I think we all know that it’s more than that.”

Halsey said his son had significant tissue damage but is now recovering at home with outpatient care, which includes a medical device to keep his wounds clean. His daughter’s final chest tube was removed Friday morning and she’s now in a regular hospital room and in good spirits, he said.

Sean Halsey shows his wounded hand to reporters outside Maine Medical Center in Portland on Friday. Halsey and his two children were shot in their car while going to get groceries in Yarmouth on April 18. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

“She’s had a lot of internal damage. She’s got a lot of surgery, incisions and stuff that are gonna have to heal — there was just so many internal organs that were damaged,” he said. 

Halsey said the Bowdoin shootings happened at a house just a few miles away from his own. He knew two of the victims, Bob and Patti Eger, but only by name. Eaton is also accused of killing his parents, David and Cynthia Eaton. Sean Halsey said he did not know them, or their son.

Joseph Eaton had been released from state prison just a few days before the shootings.

“There’s a lot of questions that have to be answered about what happened and how he was released in that condition,” Halsey said.

But for now, he said he’s just focused on his children’s health. He’ll worry about the rest later.

“Until Paige is home and we can kind of process everything together, there’s no real moment beyond the next half-an-hour or day,” Halsey said.

Troy R. Bennett is a Buxton native and longtime Portland resident whose photojournalism has appeared in media outlets all over the world.