Trooper Charlie Clinton Black
Photo credit: Maine State Police
SOUTH BERWICK, Maine -- Exactly 50 years ago last Wednesday, two armed robbers wearing masks barged into the First National Bank on Main Street in South Berwick, Maine, and killed Maine State Trooper Charlie Clinton Black as he tried to intervene.
The robbers, Joseph Roderick MacDonald, then 32, and Wayne Edward Beckus, then 26, were both apprehended. One was captured in front of the bank and the other was arrested in Somersworth after a lengthy police chase.
While the event happened 50 years ago, it is still fresh in the memories of some area residents.
"It was kind of scary because supposedly the bad guys were in our area and I lived on Washington Street with my grandparents," said Bernie Jelley, who was 16 at the time and now lives in Concord. "People were very upset. I mean it's something that didn't happen back then."
Jelley remembers hearing reports that the robber was on the loose near her family's home.
"They thought they were out by the railroad tracks or out by the Lily Pond area," said Jelley. "Living on Washington Street, you know, it's right in the vicinity."
A Facebook Post about the incident posted by the Maine State Police on Wednesday had 25 comments and 54 shares by Thursday evening.
Black was the first Maine State Trooper to be shot and killed. His death sent the Seacoast area into a frenzy of mourning and confusion.
John Meserve, 66, was a 16-year-old reporter for Foster's Daily Democrat when Black was shot.
"I was working part-time for the paper the day it happened," Meserve said.
Meserve was out of the state at a family funeral at the time of the robbery.
"I came back that night and one of the guys they caught right there in the street," said Meserve. "The other one ended up in Somersworth and they captured him in Somersworth."
Meserve said he covered the trial of one of the robbers -- one pleaded guilty -- and also covered Black's funeral for Foster's.
"At the old Somersworth District Court I mean there were hundreds and hundreds of people out trying to get a glimpse of this guy when they arraigned him," said Meserve.
Meserve remembers having to stop the presses at Foster's when the caption for a photo of Maine Gov. John Reed's wife at Black's funeral was switched with the caption for a photo of Black's wife.
"We happened to catch it right away so we stopped the press and we switched it," Meserve said. "There were some papers out there that had it backward."
Scott Perry was 13 years old during the tragedy and he remembers his dad, Charles "Charlie" Perry, a Somersworth police officer, being called in to duty.
"My father was on the Somersworth police," said Perry. "He was a policeman that got called in on that day."
Perry said the atmosphere around the Seacoast at the time was "supercharged."
"That was a long day for them because naturally, once that man was apprehended, it just didn't settle back to normalcy. They were on a heightened alerted for hours and hours after that time," said Meserve.
Meserve also said he remembers listening to the radio with his family during the police chase hoping his father would be coming home safe.
"It was really big news back then," said Meserve. "Really big news."
Copyright 2014 - Foster's Daily Democrat, Dover, N.H.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service