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Maine Elks tap Aroostook sheriff for prestigious national award

HOULTON, Maine — The Maine Elks Association has nominated Aroostook County Sheriff Shawn  Gillen for a prestigious, national award named after a federal drug enforcement agent murdered in Mexico in 1985.

Aroostook County Sheriff Shawn Gillen, right, shakes hands with Alan Harding, past exalted ruler of the Presque Isle Elks Club, on Wednesday, April 17. Harding presented Gillen a plaque honoring the sheriff as the Maine Elks Association’s state nominee for the national organization’s prestigious Enrique “Kiki” Camarena Award.
(Jen Lynds | Houlton Pioneer Times)

The Benevolent & Protective Order of Elks established the Enrique “Kiki” Camarena Award to recognize and honor law enforcement officers who have made a significant contribution in the field of drug prevention and who personify Camarena’s belief that “one person can make a difference.”

Alan Harding, past exalted ruler of the Presque Isle Elks Club, announced the honor and presented a plaque to Gillen during the County Commissioners meeting on Wednesday afternoon.

The Presque Isle Elks, Lodge No. 1954, recommended Gillen for the statewide nomination when he was chief deputy of the sheriff’s department. He won the election for Aroostook County Sheriff on Nov. 6, 2018.

The entire membership of the Aroostook County Chiefs of Police Association supported the nomination.

“The Chiefs of Police in Aroostook County have all agreed that Sheriff Gillen fits the criteria for this award and is very deserving,” Caribou Police Chief Michael W. Gahagan, chairman of the association, said in November when submitting Gillen’s name to the Elks for nomination.

Darrell Crandall, the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency commander, who received the statewide award in 2014, also was on hand Wednesday to help recognize Gillen, as were State Police Lt. Brian Harris and Presque Isle Police Chief Laurie Kelly.

Camarena was a U.S Drug Enforcement Administration agent who was abducted on Feb. 7, 1985, and brutally tortured and murdered while on assignment in Mexico. His death precipitated the start of the Red Ribbon Campaign, which Elks celebrate in his honor each year during October.

Gillen is a 25-year veteran of the Aroostook County Sheriff’s Office. A graduate of Central Aroostook High School in Mars Hill,  he is a 10-year veteran of the U.S. Army National Guard.

He joined the sheriff’s office in 1994, first working as a corrections officer in the Aroostook County Jail in Houlton and then as a deputy sheriff assigned to inmate transportation. He began patrolling The County in 1997, before joining the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency in 2001. In January 2015, he was tapped to be the chief deputy sheriff, overseeing all day-to-day operations of the sheriff’s office.

It could take up to a year to find out if Gillen wins the national award.

Previous Maine nominees for the award include Lt. Thomas Reagan of the Bangor Police Department, who also won the national award; and Deputy Joseph Jackson of the Somerset County Sheriff’s Department.

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