BY EDWARD D. MURPHY

Portland Press Herald

The Sabattus man who put up a Facebook post calling for President Barack Obama to be shot and referring to him by a racial slur stepped down from serving on three town committees Thursday rather than face a likely removal by the town’s Board of Selectmen.

The selectmen were scheduled to meet Thursday night to consider removing David Marsters from the committees, but Marsters emailed his resignations Thursday morning.

“I deeply regret what I posted and do apologize for my actions,” Marsters said in the email.

Town officials canceled the meeting, and Town Manager Andrew Gilmore issued a statement thanking Marsters for “sparing the town and community further spectacle.”

Marsters’ post drew a lot of outside attention to the small town outside Lewiston, and it was expected to draw angry residents to the meeting Thursday. The chairman of the selectmen had asked the police chief to attend to make sure things did not get out of hand.

“We may once again fully return to the work of running our town government without unnecessary distraction and place our entire focus once again where it belongs — providing critical services to our citizens,” Gilmore said in a notice cancelling the meeting. “My sincere hope is that while we all need to move forward from this experience, none of us should forget or lose sight of the fact that words are never ‘just words.’ They have meaning, they have impact, and they have consequences.”

Last Friday, Marsters put up a Facebook post that said, “Shoot the …,” using a racial slur, above a picture of Obama.

His Facebook page includes many anti-Obama posts and links to right-wing political websites. Marsters said Thursday that he posted the statement and photo because he was “frustrated by what he (Obama) was doing to the country.”

Earlier this week, Marsters said he didn’t mean he would actually shoot the president and “might have used the wrong words. … I should have said, ‘I hope the bastard dies.'”

Marsters said Thursday he didn’t intend for the posting to be a threat and that he regrets putting it online. He was questioned by Secret Service agents Tuesday, and members of the Board of Selectmen said they would consider removing him from the volunteer committees to make it clear his postings do not represent the town’s views.

The 68-year-old retired Massachusetts police officer had served on the town’s budget committee, ordinance review committee and public works advisory committee.

Marsters had said selectmen were overreacting, but on Thursday decided there was no point in having the selectmen’s meeting that had been scheduled and at which he anticipated he would be “heckled” and removed from the committees.

“When I woke up this morning, my instinct was, do not show up” at the selectmen’s meeting, Marsters said. “I always do what my first instinct in the morning is to do.”

He said he resigned from the committees by email Thursday morning. However, Marsters said he plans to continue his campaign to be elected a selectman this fall.

He said he has received several calls of support, along with other calls criticizing him for the post.

Marsters said one angry call was from a Sabattus man who told Marsters he should go back to Massachusetts before he was “shot in the back of the head.”

Marsters reported that call to police, who interviewed the caller earlier this week. Gilmore, the town manager, confirmed Marsters’ account of the threat but said police did not take any action because Marsters did not want to pursue it.

Since then, he had not heard any other reaction from people in Sabattus, Marsters said Thursday.

Marsters also drew attention to the town in March, when he proposed an ordinance that would have required every Sabattus resident to own a gun.

The Board of Selectmen rejected the idea of a requirement and instead asked for voter approval of an ordinance prohibiting the town from passing any laws that infringe on citizens’ Second Amendment rights. Voters approved that measure in June.