Sgt. Aaron Skolfield, center, of the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Department, defended his interactions with Robert Card at a hearing in January, saying he couldn’t have taken Card into custody for terrorizing because he didn’t have jurisdiction and no one wanted to press charges. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

The Sagadahoc deputy who chose not to pursue criminal charges against the Lewiston shooter or attempt to seize his weapons last September is running for sheriff.

Sgt. Aaron Skolfield, who has faced sharp criticism from the commission investigating the shooting, filed paperwork to enter the race for Sagadahoc County sheriff as a Republican in February – about three weeks after he and other members of the department testified before the commission at a public hearing.

Skolfield will attempt to unseat his boss, Sheriff Joel Merry, who has held the post since 2008 and is running for reelection.

Just weeks before the mass shooting, Skolfield twice attempted to perform welfare checks at Robert Card’s Bowdoin home after learning that Card told a friend he was planning to “shoot up” the Army Reserve base in Saco and other locations. But when Card refused to answer the door on the second attempt, Skolfield left and instead asked Card’s family to secure his large collection of guns. When Skolfield went on leave the next day, he did not pass the case on to another officer.

“At that point it was closed,” he told the commission. “Assurances were made that the family would call us. Assurances were made that the guns would be secured.”

Skolfield told the commission he had no probable cause to use the state’s yellow flag law to seize the weapons because Maine law requires a face-to-face meeting with a subject before police can take them into protective custody.


“I can’t kick in the door,” he said. “If I had kicked in the door, that would have been against the law.”

But in a report released last week, the commission said Skolfield should have found a way to take Card into custody, either by waiting him out and enacting the yellow flag law or by charging him with a crime. The document singled out Skolfield’s actions among several failures in law enforcement’s response to warnings about Card.

“Sgt. Skolfield made only limited attempts to accomplish a ‘face-to-face’ meeting with Mr. Card,” the report reads. “He failed to consult the agency’s records concerning a previous complaint about Mr. Card, failed to contact the individual who was assaulted by Mr. Card and heard his threat, and he failed to follow up on leads to determine how to contact Mr. Card.”

Skolfield confirmed in a brief phone call Monday that he is still running for sheriff, but said he could not discuss the race during work hours.

While the commission said Skolfield should have done more, several of his colleagues have agreed with his claim that he went above and beyond expectations by reaching out to multiple members of Card’s family when he could not make direct contact.

Natasha Irving, the Sagadahoc County district attorney, told the Press Herald in January that she was confident Skolfield did all he could to protect the public.


But she said that understaffed departments like Sagadahoc’s can be ill-equipped to keep up with the growing number of mental health calls they receive.

“I know it sounds so insensitive,” she said. “But the volume of cases like this that we’re dealing with – this man committed these serious, horrific, unimaginable acts, but we’ve got 100 other people that we’re concerned are going to do that tomorrow.”

Merry, who also has defended how his department handled the Card case, filed paperwork to run as a Democrat. After defeating Brett Strout with 54% of the vote to become sheriff in 2008, Merry’s reelection bids went unopposed in 2012, 2016 and 2020.

Sagadahoc County Sheriff Joel Merry. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

In an email Monday, Merry didn’t directly address how he felt about the challenge from his deputy.

“If someone else chooses to run for the office, that is their prerogative. It will ultimately be up to the citizens of Sagadahoc County to decide,” he said.

Merry said his department has taken several steps since the shooting to improve department policies and is reviewing the commission’s report.

“We are working every day to improve what we do,” he said. “There is still work that needs to be done, and I feel I need to lead the way.”

Neither men had raised any money as of Monday, according to filings with the Maine Ethics Commission.

Related Headlines

Comments are not available on this story.