Before Hollywood discovered the ‘Cocaine Bear,’ northern Maine had the OUI goat


Movie theaters nationwide this weekend will premiere the action comedy “Cocaine Bear,” loosely based on a true story in which a 500-pound black bear consumed a large amount of cocaine and embarked on a drug-fueled rampage across Tennessee and Georgia in late 1985.

Turns out, in the mid-1980s it was not just wildlife running afoul of the law. Livestock were up to no good, as well.

Several months after the bear’s rampage and 1,600 miles north, a religious fraternal ceremony, three initiates of said ceremony, a bit too much alcohol and a goat combined for one of Fort Kent’s most memorable arrests.

According to a 1986 Bangor Daily News article that covered the subsequent trial, Dale Charette, Steve Dumond and Reno Sylvain had just attended a ceremony in Fort Kent on March 16, 1986, in which the three men were initiated into the Knights of Columbus. For reasons known only to the Knights of Columbus, the ceremony involved a live goat.

Perhaps it’s better not knowing.

In addition to the aforementioned goat, the ceremony involved some post-induction refreshments that provided Charette, Sylvain and Dumond the liquid courage and the inspiration to kidnap the goat.

With Sylvain driving the getaway vehicle, Charette climbed into the passenger seat while Dumond hopped into the back seat with the goat.

They did not get far before the goat decided he’d had enough of these shenanigans, called shotgun and leapt into the front seat onto Sylvain. This caused the driver to lurch the car into the opposite lane.

In a perfect example of wrong place, wrong time, the erratic driving was witnessed by on-duty Fort Kent police Officer William Caron who hit his blue lights and siren to pull Sylvain over.

Chaos ensued.

Panicked by the flashing blue lights, Sylvain hit the brakes, resulting in Charette and the goat landing in a tangled heap on the floorboards. All the activity and heavy breathing had fogged up the inside of the vehicle and Caron was unable to tell who — or what — was driving.

By the time the fog cleared, the goat was sitting in the driver’s seat. The vehicle was registered to Charette.

Caron later testified in court he did not know much about goats, but he knew enough not to buy Charette’s version of events, which fingered the goat as the driver. So Caron took Charette into custody that night and transported him to the nearby Fort Kent police station.

That’s where things got really interesting, according to Myra Theriault, who was the night dispatcher on duty.

Charette was escorted into the police station’s back room for a breathalyzer test, Theriault recalled on Friday. But Charette refused to take the test by throwing several of the instruments onto the floor each time one was offered to him.

About that time, Sylvain, Dumond and a friend showed up at the station and heard their buddy scuffling with police in the back room.

When Theriault wouldn’t let them join Charette in the back, she said the trio jumped over the counter separating the station’s lobby from the dispatch area and barged into the room holding their friend and Caron, the officer.

“They were all [martial arts] black belts so shit started happening,” Theirault said. “I had to call for backup.”

With the closest police backup more than 20 miles away, the dispatcher rushed into the back room and saw that one of the men had Caron pinned against a wall and had his arm pressed against the officer’s throat.

“I knew he’d choke him if he kept pushing like that,” Theriault said. “So I jumped on him and pulled him off [Caron] and then ran as fast as I could.”

Wearing heels, at the time, no less.

Things calmed down soon after, but not before one of the men — in Theriault’s words — “drop-kicked” the Fort Kent police chief, who had arrived during the scuffle.

Theriault was left quite shaken by the whole thing.

“You do what you have to do to protect someone,” she said. “I did have mace, and I should have just sprayed that whole room down and locked them all in there, God bless.”

At the subsequent trial, Charette admitted to drinking that night, telling the judge that is why he gave the wheel to Sylvain.

Because all the witnesses swore Charette was not driving, he was not convicted of driving while under the influence of alcohol.

The goat was never charged.

Take that, Hollywood.

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