RISING SUN — A man remains jailed after he allegedly pointed a long gun at utility, tree-trimming and security workers because, according to Cecil County District Court records, he did not want them clearing vegetation on his Rising Sun-area property.
The suspect, William J. Watkins, 52, of the 200 block of Horseshoe Road, is charged with use of a firearm in the commission of a felony or a crime of violence and three counts of first-degree assault, all of which are felonies, court records shows. Watkins also is charged with three misdemeanor counts of reckless endangerment, according to court records.
Watkins remained in the Cecil County Detention Center without bond Tuesday, court records show.
Maryland State Police troopers from the North East Barrack responded to an area across from Watkins’ property on two occasions in quick succession May 21, both times regarding an argument that Watkins was having with workers connected to a Philadelphia Electric Co. project to remove vegetation along a transmission row across from Watkins’ property at 296 Horseshoe Road, police reported.
In addition to PECO employees, workers with Asplundh and Auld & Associates were present, police noted.
The first response occurred at about 8:15 a.m., when MSP Trooper G. Cruz spoke with Walter J. Senkow, an employee with Auld & Associates, a security escort that PECO had contracted, police added.
“PECO employees contacted Watkins and attempted to come to an agreement about the vegetation removal, but Mr. Watkins did not cooperate. Mr. Senkow stated Watkins threatened him and the employees with his gun. Mr. Senkow advised Watkins said he will go target shooting on his property and if someone gets hit, it’s not his fault,” court records allege.
Watkins allegedly approached Senkow in an aggressive manner, prompting Senkow to raise his hand up to keep distance between the two, police said. In addition, police added, the trooper raised her hand in front of Watkins to prevent him from moving closer to Senkow and she told Watkins that he was being aggressive.
Court records indicate that Watkins advised that he planned to “take the issue up to civil court;” that he advised PECO had a right to continue work until then; and that he headed back to his residence.
“It should be noted, painted on a tree stub on Watkins’ property is ‘Die 4 This’ and on a red trailer, ‘Camera watching shotgun next MFer’,” Cruz wrote in her statement of probable cause.
The trooper left the scene at approximately 8:40 a.m. — only to return about 13 minutes later after receiving a “disorderly subject” complaint, police reported.
The workers told investigators that tree-cutting personnel continued to remove vegetation, as planned, until Watkins stirred at approximately 8:45 a.m. — about five minutes after the trooper had left the area in the wake of the first incident, according to police.
“Watkins exited his home with what appeared to be a long gun (possibly a rifle) and began to wave the weapon in a threatening manner. Mr. Senkow advised Watkins shouldered the firearm and pointed it toward their direction. At that time, all employees stopped working and retreated to a safe area until Maryland State Police arrived,” court records allege.
Watkins left the area, before police arrived, court records show.
On the afternoon of May 21, some four hours after the second incident, an MSP trooper interviewed a 57-year-old woman who told investigators that the long gun Watkins allegedly had brandished could be found inside his Horseshoe Road residence, police said. A trooper went to that residence and secured it, police added. Court records do not explain the woman’s connection to Watkins and the incidents.
“(The woman) advised Watkins was angry PECO was on and removing vegetation from his property. (She) advised in the heat of the moment, Watkins threatened the employees,” court records allege.
Afia Ohene-Frempong, a PECO spokeswoman, told the Cecil Whig that the two incidents occurred while Asplundh, which is a PECO subcontractor, was clearing trees along Horseshoe Road.
“PECO owns the transmission lines and they were doing contract work in the right-of-way,” Ohene-Frempong said.
The Asplundh crew learned that Watkins had purchased the Horseshoe Road property recently and opined that Watkins did not understand the right-of-way, according to Ohene-Frempong.
“He didn’t want his trees cut,” Ohene-Frempong said, noting that the situation escalated to the point that law enforcement officers were summoned to the scene. “The police told him not to bring out a rifle and he did.”
Investigators later arrested Watkins, according to court records.
“We were able to get our work done,” Ohene-Frempong said.
Cecil Whig reporter Jane Bellmyer contributed to this news story.