Where there are still many questions regarding the motivation behind a hostage-taking and standoff at Camden's Rite Aid Sept. 15, one thing is clear: Robert Beerman used an illegal weapon he was not legally allowed to possess.

Camden Police Chief Randy Gagne said Sept. 17 the weapon used was a sawed-off 20-gauge shotgun, which is considered an illegal weapon. The barrel of the gun was shortened to less than 18 inches, he said, adding most often that type of weapon is favored due to its relatively easy concealment.

"[The gun is] absolutely not [legal]," he said.

Police also are looking into where Beerman got the weapon. According to court documents, Beerman had previous convictions for domestic violence; state statute dictates those convicted of that crime are not allowed possession of weapons.

Beerman, who died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound after hours of negotiations with police, also held a female pharmacist hostage before agreeing to release her around 11 p.m. Police are not releasing the name of the pharmacist at this time, Gagne said, adding he prefers to call her a "survivor" not a victim.

The motive behind Beerman's entering Rite Aid just after 7 p.m. Sept. 15 is still being investigated, according to police. Witness interviews also are under way and expected to be extensive, Gagne said.

While he has dealt with many situations during the past 25-plus years, the hostage situation was a first, he said.

"I could go my whole career without another one," he said. "That was my first experience with that."

The police chief praised each law enforcement agency for working together during the tense standoff.

"Tragically, there was a life lost … but the respective agencies did a fantastic job," Gagne said.

Courier Publications Editor Stephanie Grinnell can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at sgrinnell@villagesoup.com.