April 18th, 2024

Independent commission investigating mass shooting that killed 18 in Maine issues interim report

By The Associated Press on March 15, 2024.

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) – An independent commission investigating Maine’s worst mass shooting issued an interim report Friday.

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills and Attorney General Aaron Frey assembled the commission to review both the events leading up to Oct. 25, when Army reservist Robert Card killed 18 people in a bowling alley and a bar, and the response to the tragedy.

Led by a former chief justice of Maine’s highest court, the commission also included a former U.S. attorney and the former chief forensic psychologist for the state. It held seven sessions starting in November, hearing from law enforcement, survivors and victims’ family members and members of the U.S. Army Reserve as it explored whether anything could have been done to prevent the tragedy and what changes should be made going forward.

Card, who was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot 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.”

But 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,” said Sgt. Aaron Skolfield, who visited Card’s home for a welfare check in September. “If I had kicked in the door, that would’ve been a violation of the law.”

In later testimony, those involved in the search for Card in the shooting’s aftermath acknowledged potential missed opportunities to find him and end the search that locked down the community and terrified residents. Some of the most emotional testimony came family members who tearfully described scenes of blood, chaos and panic followed by unfathomable loss.

Rachael Sloat, who was engaged to be married to shooting victim Peton Berwer Ross, told the committee that her heart breaks every time their 2-year-old daughter asks for her daddy.

“Where are you?” she said. “Every politician, every member of law enforcement, every registered voter in the country ““ I want you to hear those words. “˜Where are you?’ Because my fellow Americans, where are you? We failed my little girl.”

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