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Police Had Early 'Veiled Threats' From Maine Massacre Shooter

Updated: Oct 30, 2023

Police in Maine were alerted last month to “veiled threats” by Robert Card, the U.S. Army reservist who committed the worst mass shooting in the state’s history, one of what the Associated Press calls a string of missed red flags that preceded the massacre.

Two local law enforcement chiefs said a statewide awareness alert was sent in mid-September to be on the lookout for Card after the firearms instructor made threats against his base and fellow soldiers. After stepped-up patrols of the base and a visit to Card’s home – neither of which turned up any sign of him – investigators moved on. “We added extra patrols, we did that for about two weeks. ... The guy never showed up,” said Police Chief Jack Clements of Saco, home to the U.S. Army Reserve base where Card trained.

Sheriff Joel Merry of Sagadahoc County, which includes Card’s home in Bowdoin, said the Army Reserve tipped his department in September to Card's threats, and the sheriff sent the alert to every law enforcement agency in the state after his deputy came back empty-handed from a welfare check to Card’s home.

Military officials would not comment on whether the threats relayed to the sheriff in September were the same ones Card had made during an Army reserve training exercise near West Point, N.Y., in July. That’s when he was committed to a mental health facility for two weeks after acting erratically and “hearing voices and threats to shoot up” a military base.

Last Wednesday, Card, 40, opened fire with a high-powered rifle on a bowling alley and a bar in Lewiston, Me., killing 18 people and wounding 13 more. He was found dead Friday from a self-inflicted gunshot. AP calls the case "a glaring example of missed red flags, with many unanswered questions about what the military, police, mental health professionals and relatives could have done to prevent the massacre." While Maine does not have a red flag law, it does have a "yellow flag" law that would allow a judge to take person’s firearms away if a medical practitioner deems that person to be a threat.

Nearly three months before the Lewiston shooting, a gun shop declined to let Card complete his purchase of a firearm sound suppressor after he disclosed on a form that he had mental health issues, the shop’s owner told the New York Times.

On Aug. 5, Card went to pick up a suppressor from Coastal Defense Firearms in the neighboring town of Auburn, said Rick LaChapelle, the gun shop owner. LaChapelle said Card had bought the device, which quiets gun shots and is also sometimes called a silencer — from another store, and that store sent it to Coastal Defense Firearms for pickup.

The purchase attempt is one of the first indications that Card acknowledged having mental health issues. ABC News first reported on the purchase attempt.


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