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Weeks Prior to Massacre, Maine Authorities Were Informed of Shooter’s Intimidations

by Gabriel Martinez
7 comments
Maine Mass Shooting Warning Signs

Authorities throughout Maine were warned just a month before about veiled intimidations made by the U.S. Army reservist who later conducted the most devastating mass shooting in Maine’s history. This alarming event adds to a series of overlooked warning signs leading up to the tragedy.

Local police officials revealed to The Big Big News that a statewide cautionary notice was disseminated in the middle of September, advising officers to be vigilant regarding Robert Card, a firearms trainer who had made threats against his military base and colleagues. However, increased surveillance at the base and a visit to Card’s residence yielded no trace of him, leading law enforcement to turn their attention elsewhere.

Jack Clements, the Chief of Police in Saco, where the U.S. Army Reserve base that trained Card is located, stated, “We increased patrols for approximately two weeks. The individual never appeared.”

Joel Merry, the Sheriff of Sagadahoc County, under whose jurisdiction Card’s residence falls, reported that his department had been alerted in September by the Army Reserve about Card’s menacing behavior. Merry then disseminated this alert to all law enforcement agencies across Maine after his deputy found nothing during a welfare check at Card’s residence.

“We were unable to locate him,” said Sheriff Merry. As for subsequent actions, Merry could not specify, stating, “I do not have any pertinent reports at my disposal.”

The military remained reticent about Card, particularly regarding whether the threats communicated to the Sheriff in September were novel or were the same threats made by Card during a prior Army reserve exercise near West Point, New York. In July, Card was temporarily committed to a mental health facility after displaying erratic behavior and verbalizing threats.

Robert Card, aged 40, eventually carried out a shooting at a bowling alley and a bar in Lewiston, resulting in 18 fatalities and injuring an additional 13 individuals. After a rigorous two-day manhunt, he was found deceased from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation confirmed that Card had not been under its scrutiny. It stated, “There was no information in our possession that would have precluded Card from purchasing firearms legally.”

This case exposes a critical lapse in identifying warning signs, raising numerous questions about potential preventative actions that could have been taken by military officials, law enforcement, mental health professionals, and family members.

Although Maine lacks a comprehensive red flag law, it has a more constrained “yellow-flag” law enabling the police to petition a judge for firearms removal if a medical expert identifies the individual as a threat.

Saco Police Chief Clements defended his department’s response to the Card alert, indicating that such alerts are frequent and that his officers took appropriate precautions.

“We never had any interactions with this individual, nor did we receive any communications from the reserve center about problematic behavior,” he said.

The New York State Police had previous encounters with Card when they were summoned by the commanders of the Army Reserve’s 3rd Battalion, 304th Infantry Regiment concerning Card’s unstable actions and threats during a training exercise. What followed was a two-week mental health assessment. However, the agency declined to comment on this matter.

Legal and military experts suggest that Card’s involuntary commitment to a mental health facility should have triggered certain alert mechanisms within the Army and the FBI, which seemingly did not happen.

Michael Sauschuck, Maine’s Commissioner of Public Safety, noted that despite Card’s history of mental illness, there was no evidence to suggest that he had ever been involuntarily committed.

Jody Madeira, a law professor at Indiana University, opined that Card’s previous threats and psychological assessments should have instigated a yellow flag procedure, resulting in the confiscation of his firearms.

“It appears he fell through the cracks,” said Madeira. “Warning signs were clearly present.”

Reporters Condon and Mustian filed this report from New York, with contributions from AP reporter Patrick Whittle in Portland, Maine, and research assistance from Rhonda Shafner in New York.

For further inquiries, contact AP’s global investigative team at [email protected].

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Maine Mass Shooting Warning Signs

What was the central issue highlighted in the article?

The article focused on the failure of various institutions to act on multiple warning signs related to Robert Card, a U.S. Army reservist who carried out a mass shooting in Maine. Law enforcement agencies had been alerted about Card’s threatening behavior weeks prior to the tragedy, but the warnings did not lead to preventative action.

Who were the primary authorities involved?

The primary authorities involved were local law enforcement in Maine, particularly the police departments in Saco and Sagadahoc County, as well as the U.S. Army Reserve and the FBI.

Were there any preventative laws that could have been utilized?

Maine does not have a comprehensive red flag law but has a more limited “yellow-flag” law. This allows police to petition a judge to remove firearms from a person deemed a threat by a medical professional.

What role did mental health play in this incident?

Robert Card had been committed to a mental health facility for two weeks in July after displaying erratic behavior and making threats. Despite this, he was not involuntarily committed, a fact that might have alerted authorities to his potential risk under existing regulations.

What was the FBI’s stance on the matter?

The FBI confirmed that Robert Card had not been on its radar and that they had not received any tips or information concerning him. They also noted that there was no information that would have legally prevented him from purchasing a firearm.

Were there any legal experts or professionals consulted in the article?

Yes, legal experts like Jonathan Crisp, an army lawyer, and Jody Madeira, a law professor at Indiana University, provided insights into the lapses and potential alert mechanisms that could have been triggered due to Card’s behavior and mental health history.

What were the actions taken by law enforcement before the event?

Law enforcement increased patrols around the U.S. Army Reserve base where Card trained and also conducted a welfare check at his home. However, these efforts did not result in locating Card or taking further preventive measures.

What is the current status of the investigation?

The investigation is ongoing, and many questions remain unanswered. Various agencies have declined to comment, citing the active status of the investigation or their non-leading role in it.

What actions are being questioned in hindsight?

In hindsight, questions are being raised about the effectiveness of the alert system, the coordination between military and civilian law enforcement, and the application of mental health evaluations in preventing such tragedies.

What other states or institutions were involved?

The New York State Police had previous encounters with Card and were mentioned in the article. However, they declined to comment on the ongoing investigation.

More about Maine Mass Shooting Warning Signs

  • Maine’s Yellow-Flag Law
  • U.S. Army Reserve Policies and Regulations
  • FBI’s Instant Background Check System
  • Mental Health Commitment Laws by State
  • Red Flag Laws in the United States
  • New York State Police Procedures and Guidelines
  • Analysis on Effectiveness of Law Enforcement Alerts
  • Gun Ownership Regulations and Public Safety
  • Overview of Mass Shootings in the United States
  • Understanding the Role of Mental Health in Violent Behavior

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7 comments

Tom Harris October 29, 2023 - 12:26 am

i can’t believe the army reserve knew about his threats and still no action was taken. its a disgrace.

Reply
Laura Allen October 29, 2023 - 2:06 am

This is just sad and frustrating. Lives could’ve been saved. How many more “warning signs” do we need?

Reply
Mike O'Brien October 29, 2023 - 8:41 am

So many institutions involved, yet no one took decisive action. Makes ya wonder, doesn’t it.

Reply
Emily Johnson October 29, 2023 - 10:40 am

It’s tragic how this unfolded when there were so many opportunities to prevent it. Mental health and gun laws should go hand in hand. This shoulda been a no-brainer.

Reply
Sarah Williams October 29, 2023 - 12:57 pm

why isn’t the FBI commenting more on this? feels like they’re washing their hands off the responsibility.

Reply
John Smith October 29, 2023 - 1:59 pm

Wow, just wow. How could all these warning signs get missed? Seems like a massive failure in the system somewhere. something needs to change, fast.

Reply
Robert Clarke October 29, 2023 - 4:46 pm

This is a wake-up call. We can’t keep letting red flags go unnoticed. People died cause of it.

Reply

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