Maine Gov. Janet Mills on Wednesday said she would be forming an independent commission to examine the failures and oversights that led up to Robert R. Card Jr.’s Oct. 25 murder spree.
“It is important to recognize that, from what we know thus far, on multiple occasions over the last ten months, concerns about Mr. Card’s mental health and his behavior were brought to the attention of his Army National Reserve Unit, as well as law enforcement agencies here in Maine and in New York,” Mills said in a statement.
“This raises crucial questions about actions taken and what more could have been done to prevent this tragedy from occurring,” said Mills.
Mills appeared short on answers at a press conference five days after the massacre when a national reporter grilled her for her lack of transparency.
MILLS VS MEDIA! 🥊🥊— The Maine Wire (@TheMaineWire) October 31, 2023
Very pointed exchanges broke out between Governor Mills and the media after she refused to answer questions about the Lewiston shooter. pic.twitter.com/jcdMtNi8xK
Armed with an assault rifle, Card murdered 18 people in Lewiston that night, a gruesome campaign of violence he was able to carry out despite being known to his fellow Army Reservists and multiple local police agencies as severely mentally ill and likely violent.
According to public records obtained by the Maine Wire and other media outlets, the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) was alerted to Card’s instability and his possession of multiple firearms by his family in May.
Family members told SCSO that Card had access to 10-15 firearms and had grown increasingly paranoid.
A subsequent investigation found that staff at the Army Reserve Center in Saco were also concerned with Card’s behavior.
In July, Card’s behavior and threats of violence became so severe that military brass had him involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital in New York.
Public records also show that at least three members of the Army Reserve unit Card had been enlisted in for more than two decades are also local Maine law enforcement officers.
Law enforcement officers in Card’s unit include Oxford County Sheriff Christopher Wainwright, Androscoggin County Deputy Matthew Noyes, Ellsworth Police Department Corporal Kelvin Mote, and Nashua, N.H. police officer Jeremy Reamer.
In September, the SCSO once again attempted to investigate Card at his home in Bowdoin.
However, after two unsuccessful attempts, no further visits were made to his home, according to available public records.
The disclosures that have been released since Card was found dead Friday night have raised questions over whether police officers who were aware of Card’s condition and access to weapons should have triggered Maine’s “Yellow Flag” law.
That law would have allowed law enforcement to take Card into protective custody and secure his firearms so that he could no longer be a threat to himself or others.
The disclosures have also raised questions about whether Card’s service in the military and the multiple law enforcement officers in his unit meant that his case was treated differently from the dozens of cases where the Yellow Flag law has been invoked since 2020.
In addition to questions about how the Army Reserve and Maine law enforcement handled Card’s violent instability and access to weapons, members of the media, police sources, and Maine residents have raised questions about the investigation that followed Card’s heinous acts.
Although Card was ultimately found at his former workplace, just 5,000 feet from his abandoned car, the search effort carried on for more than 48 hours and involved more than 300 officers, the FBI, and other federal agencies.
According to Kay Neufeld of the Portland Press Herald, a local police officer has told her that police were not allowed to access and search Card’s abandoned Subaru until 12 hours after it had been discovered.
Card would be found more than 48 hours later in an unlocked tractor trailer truck container on his former employers property.
Although the Maine State Police claimed to have searched the former employers property twice prior, they did not realize that the employer also had an overflow lot where other containers were stored.
Commissioner for the Department of Public Safety Michael Sauschuck said later at a press conference that they only learned about the overflow lot when the employer contacted them to ask that it be searched.
The more than two-day long search also came with a lockdown for much of southern Maine, with area businesses and schools closing for fear that Card was still on the loose.
Mills has yet to reveal precisely who will be on the commission.