Maine Gov. Janet Mills announced plans Wednesday to launch an independent commission of experts to investigate the Lewiston shootings, the months leading up to the Oct. 25 attacks and the police response to it.
“I know that the Maine State Police are working hard to conduct a thorough and comprehensive criminal investigation of the shooting, but I also believe that the gravity of this attack on our people ― an attack that strikes at the core of who we are and the values we hold dear ― demands a higher level of scrutiny,” Mill said in a statement on Wednesday.
On Oct. 25, a gunman opened fire at a bowling alley and a restaurant/bar in Lewiston, killing 18 people and injuring several others in what is now the deadliest mass shooting in the U.S. in 2023. Police launched a 48-hour manhunt for the gunman, identified as Robert Card, 40, that ended Friday when officials found him dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
In the statement on Wednesday, Mills said the multiple occasions over the past 10 months in which concerns about Card, a U.S. Army reservist, were brought up, including one instance when Card’s family contacted authorities saying that they were worried about his well-being and disclosed he had access to firearms, CNN reported.
“This raises crucial questions about actions taken and what more could have been done to prevent this tragedy from occurring,” Mills said.
According to a state law enforcement bulletin obtained by NBC News, Card spent two weeks in a mental health facility this summer following an altercation in July at a convenience store near West Point, New York.
In the store parking lot, Card accused three of the soldiers he was with of calling him a pedophile and then shoved one of them, a close friend, CNN reported. Card was brought to a base hospital and admitted for a 14-day psychiatric stay.
After his release, Card punched another soldier who had warned Card of the trouble he could get into if he continued threatening to shoot up places, including an Army Reserve center in Saco, Maine, CNN reported.
According to The New York Times, the U.S. Army Reserve notified the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office of Card’s threats to shoot up the training center, which resulted in an alert being sent to all law enforcement agencies in Maine in September.
Last month, the Maine National Guard also reported concerns to local law enforcement that Card would “snap and commit a mass shooting.”
The officer tried to contact Card but was unsuccessful. CNN reported that Card would not open the door to officers, so they tried contacting those who knew him. This occurred just six months before the Oct. 25 mass shooting.
The panel announced by the governor, which will be composed of experts with legal, investigative and mental health backgrounds, is expected to be formally established by next week, according to Mills’ statement.
“A cornerstone of the ability to heal is to know the truth ― in this case, the facts of what happened on that tragic night, of the months that led up to it, and of the police response to it,” Mills said in the statement.
“This ― the complete facts and circumstances, including any failures ― must be brought to light and known by all. The families of the victims, those who were injured, those who are recovering, and the people of Maine and the nation deserve nothing less.”