Report: Maine Shooter Should've Had Guns Seized Weeks Before

Independent commission finds Robert Card should have been placed in protective custody
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 16, 2024 11:00 AM CDT
Report: Maine Shooter Should've Had Guns Seized Weeks Before
Law enforcement officers, right, stand near armored and tactical vehicles, center, in Bowdoin, Maine, on Oct. 26 following a mass shooting.   (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

Law enforcement should have seized a man's guns and put him in protective custody weeks before he committed Maine's deadliest mass shooting, a report found Friday. An independent commission has been reviewing the events that led up to Army reservist Robert Card killing 18 people at a bowling alley and a bar in Lewiston on Oct. 25, as well as the subsequent response, per the AP. The commission criticized Sgt. Aaron Skolfield, who responded to a report five weeks before the shooting that Card was suffering from some sort of mental health crisis after he'd previously assaulted a friend and threatened to shoot up the Saco Armory. The commission found Skolfield, of the Sagadahoc County Sheriff's Office, should've realized he had probable cause to start a so-called "yellow flag" process, which allows a judge to temporarily remove somebody's guns during a psychiatric health crisis.

Led by a former chief justice of Maine's highest court, the commission also included a former US attorney and the former chief forensic psychologist for the state. It was assembled by Democratic Gov. Janet Mills and Attorney General Aaron Frey. It has held seven sessions starting in November, hearing from law enforcement, survivors, and victims' family members, as well as members of the US Army Reserve, as it explored whether anything could've been done to prevent the tragedy and what changes should be made going forward. Card, who was found dead by suicide after a two-day search, was well-known to law enforcement, and his family and fellow service members had raised flags about his behavior, deteriorating mental health, and potential for violence before the shootings. In May, relatives warned police that Card had grown paranoid, and they expressed concern about his access to guns.

In July, Card was hospitalized in a psychiatric unit for two weeks after shoving a fellow reservist and locking himself in a motel room. In August, the Army barred him from handling weapons while on duty and declared him nondeployable. And in September, a fellow reservist texted an Army supervisor about his growing concerns about Card, saying, "I believe he's going to snap and do a mass shooting." Law enforcement officials told commission members that Maine's yellow-flag law makes it difficult to remove guns from potentially dangerous people. "I couldn't get him to the door. I can't make him open the door," Skolfield said of his visit to Card's home for a welfare check in September. The commission plans to schedule more meetings, with a spokesperson noting a final report was due over the summer. More here.

(More Maine mass shooting stories.)

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