ELLSWORTH, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — After almost 36 hours on the run, Aaron Wagner is in police custody, accused of firing a gun Sunday at two people in an SUV in a parking lot outside of his home.
Police said Wagner suffers from schizophrenia, something they said made it even more important to make sure they found him safely. Some feel the incident should spark a larger conversation about mental health.
A family friend of Wagner, Susan Tripp, posted a couple pictures of him along with a message on Facebook that she hoped would help spread awareness for those that suffer from a mental illness.
"It’s something totally out of his control, it's not something he signed up for," Tripp said. "Really, inside this tortured human being is that sweet little 4-year-old boy."
Erene Laney has worked with schizophrenic individuals for years. She feels those that suffer from mental illness do not always commit crimes maliciously.
"This person is not, say, the same as a sociopath — somebody who wouldn’t have empathy, the capacity for empathy, wouldn’t have a conscious, wouldn’t have a moral value system," Laney said. "Someone with schizophrenia is acting from an internal form of point of reference, which makes sense, maybe only to them, but it does make sense in some sort of context."
Ellsworth Police chief Harold Bickmore said that these types of situations can make the job more difficult, but his first responsibility is making sure his officers and people are safe.
"On the personal, I want to help people," Bickmore said. "But on the law enforcement side, and with a case like this, you have a crime that was committed and you have a person that’s out and about and possibly a threat to the citizens, so you have to try to do everything that you can to bring them to justice."
"Now he’s going to be cared for and get back on some medication," Tripp said. "This is a great ending to what could have been a very scary situation."
Wagner is being held at Hancock County Jail. He will make his initial court appearance Wednesday or Thursday.