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Nearly a week after a tragic mass shooting claimed the lives of 18 individuals in Lewiston, Maine, there are growing concerns about whether the tragedy could have been avoided.
New details are being revealed about indications that were noticed regarding suspected shooter Robert Card, including concerns expressed by both his family and the Army, dating back several months prior to the tragic event.
In May, five months prior to the shooting, Card’s family contacted the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s office to express concerns about his mental well-being and his possession of firearms.
In July, Card underwent a psychiatric assessment for a duration of two weeks following an altercation with fellow members of the Army.
In September, the Army Reserve reached out to the sheriff’s office to request a welfare check on Card. This was due to a fellow soldier’s fear that Card might commit a mass shooting. In response, authorities issued an alert to all law enforcement agencies in the state. The alert warned that Card was considered armed and dangerous and was experiencing psychotic episodes.
The notification was canceled seven days prior to when Card allegedly shot and killed 18 individuals and injured 13 others at two businesses in Lewiston. He was discovered dead from an apparent suicide two days after the incident.
Following the shooting, officials are under increasing pressure to clarify if they could have taken additional measures to prevent the tragedy, considering the documented warnings.
According to NBC News, Card was employed as a commercial driver at Maine Recycling Corporation from February 2022 to the beginning of June 2023. His colleagues shared concerning statements made by Card, highlighting his strong interest in firearms and possible signs of paranoia.
A previous colleague stated that the individual responsible for the shooting exhibited a significant change in demeanor one year into their employment at the recycling facility.
According to the source, he suddenly became angry without reason. We had a successful day together, but then he accused me of touching him. He also claimed that I was sexually harassing him and called him a pedophile.
A previous colleague remembers Card often discussing firearms and even mentioned his desire to purchase a silencer.
While this source did not directly hear Card make any threats of workplace gun violence, the former colleague had a feeling that he may one day act on it. The source also mentioned that Card frequently and aggressively brought up the topic of guns, making for a strange and uncomfortable situation.
A previous coworker, on the other hand, remembered that a manager was made aware of reported threats of gun violence in the workplace by Card. The individual expressed disappointment that the issue seemed to be ignored.
Family members’ warnings
In May, relatives reached out to the authorities due to his possession of firearms and concerns about his mental well-being.
On May 3, 2023, Sagadahoc County Sheriff, Joel Merry, stated that the family of Mr. Card contacted the sheriff’s office. The family expressed their worry about Mr. Card’s declining mental health since January and informed that he had access to firearms.
Per the report obtained by ABC News, a notice at the uppermost portion stated “EXERCISE CAUTION WHEN RESPONDING” to Card’s home due to his “UNTRUSTFUL ACTIONS.” The report additionally mentioned that Card possessed “10-15 GUNS.”
The officer who responded to the incident stated that he was informed by [Card’s son] that his father’s mental well-being was uncertain. According to [Card’s son], this became apparent in January when his father began to believe that people were talking about him in public, regardless of whether he was in close proximity to others or not.
The son of the suspect in the shooting had concerns that his father may have been experiencing auditory hallucinations or developing paranoia. This seemed to be a common issue, as the officer reported that the suspect often accused others of attacking him, including calling him a pedophile.
The former spouse of Card expressed concern over their son spending time with Robert, citing potential concerns about his declining mental health.
According to the report, both his former wife and son have stated that they do not want Robert to be aware that they are providing this information to law enforcement, as they fear it may worsen the situation. They have decided to avoid any contact and have agreed that seeking help from the army reserves may be the best course of action for Robert.
A deputy from the sheriff’s office reached out to authorities from Card’s army reserve unit. They confirmed that they would speak with him and make sure he received proper medical treatment, as stated by Sheriff Merry.
The May report mentioned that the officer successfully contacted Card’s superiors, who expressed significant worry for Robert’s well-being.
The officer who responded to the incident documented that Card had been making allegations against other soldiers, claiming they had labeled him a sex offender. This aligned with the observations of Card’s son. One sergeant even expressed gratitude to the officer for raising concerns about Card, as their unit was due to participate in a training exercise involving weapons and grenades.
Card’s stint at a mental health facility
The following recorded event took place on July 15th in West Point, New York.
On July 15, 2023, according to a report from the county sheriff’s office, Card and a group of fellow soldiers were staying at a motel near West Point. During their visit to a convenience store to purchase beer, Card alleged that three of his fellow soldiers had called him a paedophile and threatened to handle the situation.
Card confronted a close friend from the group and physically pushed him while telling him to stop accusing him of being a pedophile. Although Card calmed down during the return trip to the hotel, he reiterated that he would handle the situation. When asked to clarify his statement, Card remained silent, according to the report.
Card secluded himself in his lodging and ignored attempts from his fellow soldiers to communicate with him. It wasn’t until the following day that other soldiers obtained a keycard to Card’s room, where he expressed a desire for people to stop discussing him. When one of the soldiers reassured him that his name was not being mentioned, Card abruptly shut the door in their face, according to the report.
The officers were prompted to transport him to a military hospital after the entire incident, where a psychologist determined that he required additional treatment. He was admitted to Four Winds Psychiatric Hospital in New York for 14 days before being discharged.
The desire of Card to purchase a firearm silencer was hindered by the situation.
The store owner informed ABC News that Card was unable to purchase a gun silencer three months before fatally shooting 18 individuals.
According to Rick LaChapelle, the proprietor of Coastal Defense Firearms, a customer filled out a form and admitted to being in an institution by checking a specific box. The staff handled the situation professionally, allowing the customer to complete the form before informing him that they were unable to provide him with a silencer due to his answers.
The form was completed by the outlet. When asked, “Have you been determined as mentally impaired or have you been institutionalized for mental health reasons,” Card checked the box for affirmative.
Mr. LaChapelle stated that they followed proper procedures and potentially saved numerous lives.
Card punched his colleague.
In September, a Maine National Guard representative asked the sheriff’s office to perform a wellness check on Card after he physically assaulted another officer. This raised concerns that he may become violent and carry out a mass shooting.
Card and his companion, a comrade in arms, were reportedly driving back from a gambling establishment when Card began discussing the accusations of him being a pedophile once more.
According to the report, Card claimed to possess guns and expressed plans to attack the drill center at the Saco base, as well as other locations. He also mentioned his intention to retaliate against those who had committed him to a mental health facility.
According to reports, Card held the soldiers responsible for his inability to purchase firearms after his two-week stay, citing “commitment” as the reason. When a soldier warned him against discussing shooting and violence, Card retaliated by punching him.
This exchange led to the Maine National Guard asking for a wellness check.
The welfare check and alert were not successful.
The letter stated that due to Card’s skills as a marksman, it would be wise to exercise caution. If he were to follow through with the threats made against the soldier, he would likely be successful.
On September 15, the sheriff’s officer attempted to locate Card but was unsuccessful. Although a jet ski and motorcycle registered to Card were found at a residence that appeared to be his home, he could not be found. To address this, a file 6 alert was issued and sent to other agencies. According to Sheriff Merry, the alert contained a warning that Card was armed and dangerous and provided information about his behavior. It also advised officers to exercise extreme caution.
The officer spoke with Ryan Card, the suspect’s brother, on September 17th and verified that Card had access to Ryan’s guns. According to the report, the guns were kept in a gun safe.
According to reports, Ryan Card informed the authorities that he and his father were collaborating to relocate the firearms. He also stated that he would make efforts to prevent his brother from obtaining any additional guns.
Sheriff Merry wrote that the File 6 alert was cancelled on October 18.
What was the reason for Card being permitted to possess firearms?
The reasons behind how he managed to obtain over a dozen firearms, despite several warning signs that should have stopped him, are still unclear.
Law enforcement officials previously stated that the firearms he possessed were believed to have been obtained through legal means.
The recent tragedy has sparked renewed scrutiny of Maine’s existing gun regulations.
Although several states have adopted red flag laws, which permit family members or authorities to ask a court for a temporary order limiting a person’s access to firearms if they are deemed a threat to themselves or others, Maine has not done so.
Instead, the state has enacted yellow flag laws that mandate a family member to notify law enforcement about the individual, who would then be placed in protective custody. Subsequently, a mental health professional would assess the individual to determine if they are a potential threat.
According to Public Safety Commissioner Michael Sauschuck, these regulations pertain to individuals under protective custody by law enforcement, and the determining factor is whether there is probable cause to suspect the individual may have a dangerous weapon.
“If we fulfill those requirements,” he went on, “you may conduct a yellow flag assessment and a weapons restriction order assessment for an individual. In this case, your criteria will shift from the probability of causing serious harm to the probability of causing foreseeable harm.”
Last week, Mr. Sauschuck clarified that there was no evidence of Card being involuntarily hospitalized for treatment. However, this detail is now being closely examined following the release of more information about his two-week stay at a mental health facility.
According to former Army lawyer Jonathan Crisp, being involuntarily committed to a mental health facility is considered a “reportable” incident under Army regulations. This triggers a chain of notifications and subsequent limitations.
According to his explanation, the process involves the official recording the incident in a military database, which then triggers a notification to the FBI. This allows the agency to add the individual’s name to a list of individuals prohibited from purchasing weapons.
According to Mr. Crisp, if he was taken against his will and refused to be admitted, it would have been an easy case to report.
The reason for why it did not occur is still being investigated, along with the events leading up to the tragedy.