Maine Shootings

Sgt. Aaron Skolfield of the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office responds to a question during a Jan. 25 hearing of the commission investigating the mass shooting in Lewiston. Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press

The Sagadahoc County deputy who has faced criticism from all angles for failing to prevent Maine’s deadliest mass shooting says he could have done more – if Army Reserve leaders had told him the full truth about the danger Robert Card posed to the community.

In his first public interview about the welfare checks he attempted to conduct on Card more than a month before the shooting, Sgt. Aaron Skolfield told the Press Herald that he believes he did the right thing.

“I can only work with what I have,” he said during an interview at the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office headquarters in Bath on Monday. “And what I was given was not a complete picture.”

That picture has gotten clearer in the six months since the shooting that killed 18 people and injured 13 others. But as the public has learned more about what the Army and police knew about Card’s failing mental health, criticism of the agencies involved has sharpened.

In its first public report, the commission investigating the shooting excoriated Skolfield for not confronting Card after he threatened to shoot up his Army Reserve base in Saco in September. Card’s Army leaders told the commission they blame the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office for failing to confiscate Card’s guns.

Then Skolfield’s announcement that he is running for sheriff this fall left some critics in Sagadahoc County aghast.


Recently freed from what he described as a department “gag order” not to discuss Card and the mass shooting, Skolfield spoke at length Monday morning about what happened in September and why the commission’s scrutiny should be directed at the Army, not him.

Skolfield said he believes Card’s Army superiors were dishonest with him last fall when they reported Card’s threats against the base. If they hadn’t downplayed their concerns and had shared all the information they had about Card – including that a doctor said that summer that he should not be around guns – Skolfield said he would have found a way to bring him into custody, perhaps by charging him with terrorizing.

He also criticized the commission’s report, which he described as unfair, hypocritical and factually inaccurate.

An Army spokesperson said the agency would not comment on the case until it completes its own internal investigation into its handling of Card.

Sagadahoc Sheriff Joel Merry said Monday that he initially told his officers not to speak publicly about the case so that they would not feel pressured to answer questions from the media. He said he never intended the policy to be a “gag order” and reversed it when he learned that Skolfield wanted to share his story with the media.



After Skolfield first learned of Card’s threats against the Army Reserve base on Sept. 15, he attempted to check on Card in his Bowdoin home. When he found no one there, he put out an alert for law enforcement to be on the lookout for Card.

Skolfield returned the next morning and found Card’s vehicle in the driveway. But when he and a Kennebec County deputy knocked on the door, Card did not acknowledge them and remained hidden in the home.

Without contact, without probable cause, the deputy has said he couldn’t drag the man out of his home; he couldn’t issue a weapons restriction order; he couldn’t force Card to seek mental health treatment. 

Capt. Jeremy Reamer, of the Army Reserve in Saco, testifies before the Lewiston commission on April 11. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

But the commission said he could and should have done all of that; he should not have left it up to Card’s family to handle. In its March report, commission members said Skolfield had more than enough probable cause to begin the yellow flag process and that he could have charged Card with assaulting the friend who reported the threats against the Army Reserve unit.

Card’s Army Reserve commanders, Jeremy Reamer and Kelvin Mote, both police officers, told the commission they had expected Skolfield to confront Card and initiate a yellow flag process when they passed along the threats.

“I requested that they do a check (on Card’s) well being, expecting them to do their job,” Reamer told the commission on April 11. “I trusted that the law enforcement, based on the information that they got, would take it and run.”


But Skolfield said it was Reamer and Mote, not him, who failed the community.

It’s easy to say in hindsight that he should have done more to arrest Card, Skolfield said. But he said the reality is that police regularly get calls about potentially dangerous people, including some who threaten to commit acts of mass violence. Most of them come to nothing. Given that context, law enforcement officials have to decide how much of their limited time and resources to devote to any individual call.

And in this case, Skolfield said, his decision was colored by his conversations with Card’s Army superiors – conversations Skolfield now believes were dishonest.

Skolfield said he came away from phone calls with Mote and Reamer on Sept. 16 with the impression that the warnings about Card were less urgent than he initially believed.

Kelvin Mote of the Ellsworth police department pauses while answering questions during a March 7 hearing of the commission investigating the Lewiston mass shooting. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

He learned the threat against the base had been made earlier than he thought: more than 24 hours before he had been notified. He figured someone would have called him sooner if the Army had really taken the threats differently, and that the commanders wouldn’t have emphasized that they thought the soldier who reported Card was unreliable. He also read into the fact that Mote hadn’t called him directly but had delegated the task to a co-worker in the Ellsworth Police Department, Detective Corey Bagley.

“If he’s as concerned as he testified to that ‘The hairs on the back of his neck stood up.’ … Why does he send it to Bagley? Talk about the long way around to report something that’s as shocking as they testified to,” Skolfield said. “They didn’t believe it was going to happen, and that was conveyed to me on the 16th.”


Both Reamer and Mote have told the commission that they don’t believe they minimized concerns about Card.

On a recording of a phone call on Sept. 16, Reamer tells Skolfield he “doesn’t think this is going to get any better,” but he also repeatedly says that he just wants Skolfield to “document” that he tried to check on Card.

There is no recording of Mote’s call with Skolfield. Mote declined to speak about those conversations Monday, citing the ongoing Army investigation.

Sgt. Aaron Skolfield of the Sagadoc County Sheriff’s Office discusses Robert Card’s mental state on a call with Army Reserve Capt. Jeremy Reamer. Reamer tells Skolfield he only needs to “document” a welfare check around minute 3:10. 


Skolfield said he has struggled to sleep since the shooting and that his mind often races about the interim report and all the issues he sees with it.


Some are factual errors – the report states that Skolfield learned about Card’s threats at 10:22 a.m. on Sept. 15, but radio transmission recordings obtained by the Press Herald show that he did not hear about them until after 2 p.m.

He believes the report contradicts itself in some places and is unfair to him in others, like when it criticizes him for failing to use “the collective knowledge of all law enforcement officers involved in an investigation.” Skolfield said he did that, but the knowledge he got from Mote and Reamer pointed him toward inaction.

He said things would have been different if they had told him the full story about Card’s two-week involuntary stay in a New York psychiatric hospital that summer or that a doctor had told Reamer that Card should not be around weapons at the Army base or at home.

“Of course I should have been given that information. Those circumstances were kept from me,” he said. “Why? That’s the golden question. I think they were trying to protect Card to some degree. They didn’t want to jack their buddy up.”

While some, including Merry and Sagadahoc County District Attorney Natasha Irving, have said the shooting is the result of a growing mental health crisis that has overwhelmed police departments, Skolfield suggested Monday that the law enforcement system in Maine is fundamentally sound.

Human error was the problem, he said. The error just wasn’t his – it was Mote’s and Reamer’s.

“I wish they had said, ‘This is the real deal,’ ” he said. “That would have changed everything.”

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