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Sheriff Had Cause to Take Mass Shooter Into Custody Before Rampage That Left 18 Dead, Report Says

A coworker of the gunman alerted supervisors a month before the tragedy and texted, "I believe he’s going to snap and do a mass shooting”

<p>JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images</p> Law enforcement officers gather outside Lewiston High School, Maine on October 26, 2023

JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images

Law enforcement officers gather outside Lewiston High School, Maine on October 26, 2023

The Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office is now investigating the mass shooting that occurred on Oct. 25, 2023, in Lewiston, Maine, per an initial interim report issued by an independent commission.

Maine Gov. Janet Mills and Attorney General Aaron Frey formed the independent commission to evaluate what occurred before Robert Card killed 18 people and injured 13 in a bowling alley and then what happened after and how authorities responded to the mass shooting.

Daniel E. Wathen, a former chief justice of Maine’s highest court, led the commission. Wathen was joined by the former chief forensic psychologist for the state and former U.S. attorney. The committee met seven times beginning in November with the intent to review what could have prevented this tragedy and any future tragedies.

The committee hearings included statements from the survivors, victims’ families, law enforcement and members of the U.S. Army Reserve.

<p>JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images</p> Police presence at Schemengees Bar where a mass shooting occurred yesterday in Lewiston, Maine on October 26, 2023

JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images

Police presence at Schemengees Bar where a mass shooting occurred yesterday in Lewiston, Maine on October 26, 2023

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The gunman, Card, was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound three days after the mass shooting. Card was a member of the U.S. Army Reserve and served as a Petroleum Supply Specialist.

Before the shooting, Card’s behavior raised flags. He “was suffering from some sort of mental health crisis, had recently assaulted a friend, had threatened to shoot up the Saco Armory and harm others,” per the report. Card also possessed numerous firearms. These flags, which alarmed friends and family, “had probable cause to start the Yellow Flag process,” per the report.

The Yellow Flag law — enacted in 2020 — allows another person to report a gun owner who seems to be a threat. Once reported, local law enforcement can either take that person into protective custody or order a mental health evaluation from a medical expert. Then, if the doctor and police declare it necessary, law enforcement can apply for a court order to temporarily remove guns from the person. Finally, if all of the other steps have been taken, the court can temporarily suspend a gun license or remove guns.

Related: Maine Shootings: What We Know About 'Armed and Dangerous' Suspect, Now Wanted for Murders

Card’s family warned police that he had grown paranoid and shared how they were concerned he had gained access to guns in May. In July, Card shoved a coworker and then locked himself in a motel room. He was then hospitalized in a psychiatric unit for two weeks.

The next month, he was declared nondeployable and barred by the Army from handling weapons while on duty.

Then, in September, one of Card’s fellow reservists shared with an Army supervisor that he was concerned about Card’s behavior. “I believe he’s going to snap and do a mass shooting,” read the reservist’s text.

<p>JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images</p> Law enforcement officers gather outside Lewiston High School, Maine on October 26, 2023.

JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images

Law enforcement officers gather outside Lewiston High School, Maine on October 26, 2023.

Related: 18 People Killed, 13 Injured in Maine Mass Shootings, Manhunt for Suspect Ongoing: Governor

In the Independent Commission statement, it was reported that law enforcement officials said the state’s yellow flag law complicates the ability to remove guns from potentially threatening and dangerous gun owners.

During the hearings, it was revealed that Sgt. Aaron Skolfield went on leave in mid-September, and "his supervisors failed to assign another deputy to take further action." Per the report, the "SCSO failed to take the necessary steps" to begin the Yellow Flag process and bring Card into police custody.

The Commission shared that they "unanimously" found that "the decision to turn over the responsibility for removing Mr. Card’s firearms to Mr. Card’s family was an abdication of law enforcement’s responsibility."

Additionally, more law enforcement shared insights into the process after the shooting. The authorities recognized that there were some missed opportunities to find him after the tragedy.

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