A veteran sheriff’s deputy who was among the first to respond to Maine’s deadliest mass shooting said state police gave local partners only “radio silence” and wasted valuable resources during a sweeping search for the alleged killer.
In a Facebook post that has been removed, Sgt. Jon Guay of the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office said state police leadership shut out local cops, leaving federal law enforcement officers and others to “sit idle.” The only way they got information was through internal leaks, he wrote.
Guay called the Maine State Police command staff “utter clowns,” saying local law enforcement was kept out of the loop.
“To not include our local agencies in the information circle is insulting and one we will never forget,” he wrote.
The withering post provided a rare public look at tension within the state’s close-knit law enforcement community. It also amounted to the first pointed, public criticism of the Maine State Police-led search for alleged shooter Robert R. Card II of Bowdoin, which plunged the region into lockdown for 48 hours until Card was found dead in Lisbon on Friday.
Card allegedly opened fire before 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Just-In-Time Recreation bowling alley and then afterward at Schemengees Bar and Grille. The shooting left 18 dead and 13 wounded and sparked the largest manhunt in state history until Card was found dead in a trailer outside a recycling facility where he once worked.
By Thursday, 350 law enforcement officers were in the area assisting with the hunt, Shannon Moss, a spokesperson for the Maine Department of Public Safety, said. They included police at state, county and local levels from Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont and federal agencies including the FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the U.S. Marshals Service and the Department of Homeland Security.
It is unclear exactly when Guay made the post. He did not respond to a request for comment on Monday, Androscoggin County Sheriff Eric Samson said he saw the post Sunday, then Guay called him to discuss it. The post did not violate office policies, nor did Samson ask Guay to take it down. The sheriff said he could understand Guay’s frustrations, even if he didn’t share them.
“You look at that tragedy, and you look at what we have all been through — everybody involved,” Samson said. “But he was expressing his frustration, and I get it.”
Guay was one of the first responding officers to Wednesday’s mass shooting and was involved with the search efforts for Card up until his body was found. Everyone has a different way of decompressing from an event like this, Samson said.
After any sort of major police action, like a mass shooting or police use of deadly force, there is an after-action review, Samson said. That review might be the more proper venue to air concerns or frustrations with the response to the shooting, the sheriff said.
Guay has been working for the sheriff’s office since 1999 and for about 10 years was part of the sheriff’s office’s K-9 team. His longtime K-9 partner, Bosco, died in 2020. In 2021, he was one of four police officers who shot and killed 44-year-old Jason A. Gora in Minot. The Office of the Maine Attorney General cleared Guay, along with the other three officers involved.
Having worked in the county since then and particularly in the Lewiston and Auburn area, Guay said in his post that his colleagues have developed networks and relationships that could have allowed information to spread within “seconds.”
“No one knows this county better than the local officers who work in it,” he said. “We have utilized this networking strategy many times before in separate incidents, but when Maine State Police showed up Wednesday night…all that stopped.”
The Maine State Police have not given detailed information on how the manhunt was led, who was in charge and how information flowed to each agency involved. Moss, the state police spokesperson, did not address the details of Guay’s complaints in a statement that said her agency values its relationship with the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office.
“It’s unfortunate this statement was made but it was a grueling and frustrating 48 hours for everyone,” Moss said.
Some local police had visible roles in the search. Samson told a reporter on the night of the shootings that he was working in Lisbon on Wednesday, while Lisbon police Chief Ryan McGee was helping conduct searches late last week in his town. Michael Sauschuck, the commissioner of the Maine Department of Public Safety, has praised the coordination between agencies.
“This is an all hands on deck approach,” Lewiston police Chief David St. Pierre said at a Friday news conference. “We have a great deal of collaboration and resources that have been made available to us.”
Massive manhunts like the one for Card require a lightning-fast response, a large number of police and careful coordination. James Turner, the police chief in Hampton, Georgia, was thrust into a similar situation in July after a gunman shot and killed four people in the Atlanta suburb.
Turner didn’t want to comment specifically on the Maine search, but he said his team established a command center with a representative from each police agency involved to assure real-time information could be shared with everyone although his department was in charge.
Police searched locations multiple times to make sure nothing was missed, bringing in the U.S. Marshals Service early because finding people is “what they’re good at,” Turner said.
“Certainly what helped us to have as successful of a resolution as quickly as we did, was just the partnerships with all the individual agencies,” he said.
BDN reporter Marie Weidmayer contributed to this report.