Police were warned twice this year that the alleged Lewiston mass shooter was gathering firearms while becoming increasingly paranoid.
The Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office released documents on Monday showing the office had two prior interactions containing warning signs of 40-year-old Robert R. Card II’s mental status and his access to firearms.
While one of those incidents has been reported on by some media in the wake of the Wednesday shootings that killed 18 people at a bowling alley and bar, those reports have not contained many of the key details outlined in the files sent to news outlets by Sheriff Joel Merry, whose agency covers Card’s hometown of Bowdoin.
The disclosures reveal the unraveling of a man witnessed by his family, friends and Maine law enforcement officers that served with Card in the Army Reserve, including a sheriff. They will raise questions about why Card did not trigger the state’s “yellow flag” law aimed at getting guns away from potentially dangerous people.
In May, family members told police they were concerned about his mental state and what he might do with the between 10 and 15 guns he had gathered from a family property. The documents do not say how that was resolved. Then, a U.S. Army reservist reached out to police in September expressing concerns that Card was paranoid and mentally ill.
The reservist also warned Card was going to “shoot up” the Army Reserve facility in Saco and that Card had been committed to a mental health facility. A reservist told his superiors he was concerned that Card was “going to snap and commit a mass shooting,” the report said.
That second incident prompted police to attempt to locate Card and potentially take his firearms, but they couldn’t find him, a September police report said. A sheriff’s deputy instead relied on Card’s family to take the firearms, according to the report.
On Sept. 15, the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office issued a “File 6” attempt-to-locate notice to other law enforcement agencies. The alert said Card was noted as known to be “armed and dangerous” and that he had made threats against the Saco reserve facility.
That alert was canceled Oct. 18, a week before Card killed 18 people in the deadliest mass shooting in the country this year and the deadliest in Maine history, also wounding another 13. The two-day manhunt for Card locked down the region until his body was found near a recycling center where he once worked in Lisbon.
Merry, the sheriff, said in a statement that he believed his office had “acted appropriately” and followed procedures for attempting to locate a potentially dangerous person. He declined to answer questions about the documents in a follow-up phone call.
The paper trail on Card begins in May, when the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office was called in to talk to some of Card’s family after they raised concerns about Card’s increasing paranoia. One of the family members told police that Card would often say that people around him in public were talking about him even though those people were paying no attention to him, according to a report.
At that time, the family members said Card had not made any threats with the firearms but were merely concerned. The responding sheriff’s deputy on that call, Chad Carleton, said in his report that he reached out to the Army Reserve center in Saco where he learned that there had “recently been considerable concern for Robert.”
“It sounded like they may be aware of his recent mental health decline,” Carleton wrote.
While Carleton was investigating, he was called by an Ellsworth police officer who served in the reserves with Card. The office told Carleton that Card had accused other soldiers of calling him a sex offender, behavior that seemed similar to what the family members reported.
In that call, Carleton shared what he had learned about Card with the Ellsworth officer, who “thanked” him for the notification as the reservists were scheduled for an upcoming training exercise involving weapons and grenades, the report said. That person said he was going to call a superior officer in the Army Reserves to “figure out options to get Robert help.”
Members of Card’s family said his paranoia and mental status began to decline after he got hearing aids in February. On May 4, a family member told police that when they attempted to speak with Card the night before about his mental health, he answered the door with a gun.
The plan was for Card’s family to convince him to see a doctor while Army officials confronted him about his mental health, Carleton said in his report. The last line read, “I specifically warned about the fact Robert had allegedly answered the door with a gun yesterday.”
In September, the Army Reserves reached out to the sheriff’s office for a welfare check on Card, according to a report from Deputy Aaron Skolfield. Officials from the Army Reserves were concerned because Card was having “psychotic episodes” that included hearing voices insulting him and calling him a pedophile, similar to the behavior cited by Card’s family.
Card was also “making threats to shoot up” the Army Reserve’s Saco facility, according to the report from Skofield, who added that Card was committed to a New York mental health facility in the summer. Card was in West Point, New York, as part of his duties as an Army reservist.
Skolfield’s report contained the original letter from the Army Reserves that detailed incidents witnessed by Maine police who served in the reserves with Card, including Oxford County Sheriff Christopher Wainwright, who did not respond to a Monday evening voicemail seeking comment.
While Card was at West Point, several soldiers were hanging out with him and went to get beer at a convenience store, Skofield’s report said. In the parking lot of the store, Card accused three of the soldiers of calling him a pedophile and said he would “take care of it,” the report said. Card accosted one of his longtime friends and told him to stop calling him a pedophile.
That night, Card locked himself in his room and couldn’t be reached until the next day when Card’s superiors were informed of what happened, Skofield wrote. Another soldier in Card’s unit came forward that same night to report that he was punched in the face by Card after he told Card to stop talking about “shooting up places and people.”
The Army Reservist who reported his concerns to police told Skofield that after he confronted Card he “needed to be evaluated.” Card was then taken to a military hospital where a psychologist determined he needed further treatment and evaluation, the report reads. Card was held for 14 days at a facility in New York.
Skofield went to Card’s West Road home on Sept. 16. While Card could be heard moving in the trailer, he did not come to the door when police knocked. Skofield called an Army Reserve captain who told him that Card was no longer in possession of any Army weapons and that Card’s brother had taken other personal guns from Card. Skofield left the home.
The next day, Sept. 17, Skofield called Card’s brother, who confirmed he had taken all of Robert Card’s guns. Later, the deputy was contacted again by the brother, who told Skofield he and his father would “work to ensure that Robert does not have access to any firearms.”
That was the end of the report. There is no discussion of why police did not attempt to get a medical professional to evaluate Card. If he had been deemed a threat by such a person, police could then have petitioned a judge to seize his firearms under the yellow flag law.
The attempt-to-locate report for Card was formally canceled Oct. 18, exactly a week before the shooting.
BDN writer Michael Shepherd contributed to this report.