AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Janet Mills declined Monday to confirm reports on an alert in September to all Maine law enforcement agencies warning them about the Army reservist who went on to kill 18 people in a Lewiston mass shooting last week.
Mills sharply deflected questions about those reports from national outlets during a Monday afternoon news conference at the State House on her administration’s ongoing response to Maine’s deadliest mass shooting in modern history, saying the information was not yet confirmed as police continue to investigate.
The Democratic governor said understanding “all the facts” surrounding the shooting and the gunman is “crucial” and that she trusts Maine State Police will complete a “thorough investigation” into what led up to the Oct. 25 carnage at a bar and bowling alley.
Mills got into testy exchanges with CNN correspondent Shimon Prokupecz, who at one point shouted there was “a lack of transparency” regarding what her administration and state police knew about the 40-year-old gunman, Robert R. Card II, who was found dead Friday evening in nearby Lisbon of a suspected self-inflicted gunshot wound after a 48-hour manhunt.
“Governor, you really don’t know what you’re talking about, is that what you’re saying?” the CNN reporter asked. “This needs to be answered.”
Mills at one point told Prokupecz to “lower your voice” as the reporter kept shouting questions while the governor tried to call on other reporters.
“You’re making assumptions. I’m not making any assumptions,” Mills added. “We’re continuing to investigate who knew what when.”
National outlets, including the Associated Press and CNN, reported that police went to Card’s Bowdoin home in September after the Army Reserve told Sagadahoc County Sheriff Joel Merry that Card had made threats against his base and fellow soldiers.
Merry told the AP he sent an alert in mid-September to every law enforcement agency in the state after his deputy found no sign of Card during a welfare check at his home. The police chief in Saco, home to the U.S. Army Reserve base where Card trained, also said he added extra patrols at the base for about two weeks but Card “never showed up.”
Merry confirmed to the Bangor Daily News he sent an “attempt to locate” alert to Maine law enforcement agencies regarding Card and declined to share additional details.
Card reportedly received inpatient psychiatric treatment in New York for about two weeks in July after the Army reservist reportedly began behaving erratically while with his unit. That evaluation alone would not have triggered Maine’s “yellow flag” law in which police can temporarily confiscate guns from someone a judge and medical professional agree is a threat to themselves or others. That’s because Card was placed in protective custody and evaluated out of state.
CNN mentioned a Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office report on Card was from the National Guard but appeared to actually come from the Army.
A Maine National Guard spokesperson told the BDN that Card had never served in the Maine National Guard, referring questions to the Army Reserve.
Police have not identified a motive for last week’s mass shooting but confirmed Monday they found a Ruger SFAR, or small-frame autoloading, rifle in Card’s abandoned vehicle, with ballistic and forensic testing still pending. Maine State Police also said when Card was found dead, he had with him a .40 caliber handgun and an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle.
As for a legislative response to the mass shooting, Mills avoided specifics but said Monday she wants to bring together lawmakers from both major parties to discuss next steps. The 2024 session is a shortened one due to the even-numbered year and will only focus on bills deemed “emergency” measures by a panel of legislative leaders.
“I’m not taking anything off the table,” Mills said.
BDN writers Sawyer Loftus and Michael Shepherd contributed to this report.