As details surrounding the mental health history of the Lewiston mass shooter Robert R. Card, Jr., continue to come to light, more scrutiny is being placed on Maine’s “yellow flag” law and how it may have been able to prevent last week’s horrific tragedy.
A list of weapons restriction orders in Maine since the yellow flag law took effect released by the Maine Attorney General’s Office Monday shows that many cases that were less severe and contained less obvious threats of harm than that of Card’s trigger the protections.
The release raises additional questions about what more could have been done by law enforcement in the months leading up to the shooting.
At a press conference in Lewiston the day after the shooting, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins said “it certainly seems that on the basis of the facts that we have, that the yellow flag should have been triggered” in the case of the suspected Lewiston shooter.
“If, in fact, [Robert Card] was hospitalized for two weeks for mental illness, that should have triggered the yellow flag law and he should have been separated from his weapons. I’m sure, after the fact, that’s going to be looked at very closely,” Sen. Collins said.
The state’s yellow flag law, which came into effect on July 1, 2020, can temporarily restrict an individual from possessing firearms if police place the individual in protective custody and have that individual undergo an evaluation by a medical professional, which can then lead to the police petitioning a judge to have that individuals firearms removed.
Maine’s yellow flag law was meant to be a middle ground between gun rights advocates and gun control advocates, and therefore is less sweeping than other state’s “red flag” laws — by which in some cases a relative can directly petition a court to have their family member’s firearms seized.
The 40-year-old Bowdoin resident was a U.S. Army Reservist stationed in Saco, and according to documents provided to the media by the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office, Card’s unit — which contains several members of Maine law enforcement — was aware of and concerned about Card’s erratic behavior and violent threats prior to the shooting.
Card reportedly was exhibiting signs of paranoid schizophrenia, hearing voices and believing that members of his unit were calling him a pedophile and mocking him, resulting in at least one instance where he assaulted one of his unit members, as well as threatening to shoot up the Army Reserve Center in Saco.
Card’s behavior during training at West Point in New York resulted in a 14-day stay at the Four Winds Psychiatric Hospital in Katonah, N.Y.
This information, based on a complaint from the Army Reserve Center, led to an attempted welfare check on Card in mid-September by the Sagadahoc Sheriff’s Office to determine if he was a threat to himself or others — during which Card could not be contacted.
Law enforcement were also in touch with members of Card’s family going back to before the summer who expressed their concerns about his paranoia.
It appears that rather than pursuing a weapons restriction on card under Maine’s yellow flag law, the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office spoke with Robert Card’s brother Ryan, who assured that he would make sure Robert Card did not have access to any firearms.
On Monday, Public Information Officer of the Maine Department of Public Safety Shannon Moss shared a document prepared by the Maine Attorney General’s Office showing a list of all weapons restriction orders issued under Maine’s yellow flag law since July 1, 2020.
Below is a list of several incidents that resulted in a weapons restriction order being placed on individuals, many of which appear to be very similar to Robert Card’s case or even less severe:
- Brewer PD: 38-yr-old man, armed with AK-47, believed Stephen King & police are after him, possesses many firearms.
- Androscoggin SO: 38-yr-old depressed man in Greene, arguing with wife, threatening to kill himself.
- Brewer PD: 34-yr-old man, armed with gun, people are out to kill him, incidents of wanting to hurt himself or others.
- Lincoln SO: 32-yr-old combat veteran with longtime PTSD and previous suicide attempts making death threats to staff at Togus VA and expressing desires of self-harm.
- Sanford PD: 38-yr-old man increasingly paranoid, believes wife cheating on him, there are listening devices in light bulbs, and cameras in house watching him, possessed two loaded AR-15s, machete, & Bowie knife.
- Fairfield PD: 35-yr-old man experiencing psychotic episode; former psychiatric patient with history of psychosis; recently threatened mother with knife.
- Ellsworth PD: 40-yr-old man with symptoms consistent with mania and psychosis; grandiose with multiple paranoid delusions; believes he has a “disappearing brain disease.”
Many of the cases listed on the Attorney General’s Office report contain common elements of threatening oneself or others, as well as mental illness and access to weapons — all of which were present in the case of Robert Card.