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Lewiston gunman's mental health was deteriorating prior to shooting, documents show

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

There is new information about the shooting in Maine which killed 18 people last week. Documents released by police show that family and army officials were deeply alarmed by the shooter's deteriorating mental health months before he carried out that state's worst mass shooting. Reporter Kevin Miller with Maine Public Radio is here with the latest. Hi there.

KEVIN MILLER, BYLINE: Hello. How are you?

SUMMERS: Hi. So, Kevin, first off, remind us, if you can, exactly what happened last week.

MILLER: So police say that Robert Cod, a 40-year-old Army reservist, walked into a bowling alley and then a restaurant last Wednesday with a high-powered rifle, and he shot more than 30 people, killing 18 of them. He then fled the scene, and parts of central Maine were basically locked down until late Friday. That's when Mr. Card was discovered dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

SUMMERS: What new information are we learning about the mental health of the shooter and the concerns that people who knew him had before this deadly shooting?

MILLER: Well, these documents show that Robert Card's family and members of the Army Reserve unit that he served in had growing concerns about his paranoia, his aggressive behavior and his talk as well as his access to guns. They communicated some of these concerns to police as early as last May. Mr. Card's family told the local sheriff's office that Card was hearing voices, that he thought people were calling him a pedophile. And they told police that he had access to more than a dozen guns. We also learned more about what led him to being admitted to a military hospital for two weeks back in July. Leaders of his Army Reserve unit were concerned about his erratic behavior. And then just one month ago, police were told from a - by a - excuse me - by a fellow reservist that was worried about Card because he was becoming so paranoid and angry that he said he might, quote, "snap and commit a mass shooting."

SUMMERS: I mean, just listening to your description there, these are incredibly serious warning signs. How did the police and the army respond to these concerns?

MILLER: Well, back in May, the sheriff's office talked to the family and to leaders of Mr. Card's Army Reserve unit. The family members told police that they would talk to him. Army Reserve leaders also sold - told police that they would speak with him. But if we flash-forward to mid-September, deputies then received even more concerning reports, including that he was threatening to, quote, "shoot up" that Army Reserve facility. They tried to talk to Card twice at his home in rural Bowdoin, Maine, doing what they call a wellness check. But both times, they were unsuccessful. Card either wasn't there, or he wasn't answering the door. And then a Reserve unit leader suggested that police give Card time to cool off as the Reserve tried to get him into treatment. Card - he was declared non-deployable by the military, but it doesn't look like the Sheriff's office made any additional attempts to interact with Card after that. And it also doesn't appear that the Army was able to get him additional help. And then the mass shooting happened about six weeks later.

SUMMERS: In just a few sentences, were there any other steps that authorities could have taken here?

MILLER: Yeah, that's obviously the big question here. Maine has a yellow flag law that allows police to temporarily confiscate a person's guns if a medical professional and a judge agree that that person poses a risk to themselves or others. This is a less sweeping version of the red flag laws that are on the books in dozens of states. But that was never employed with Card, and a lot of people are asking, why not?

SUMMERS: Yeah.

MILLER: And there were also questions about whether he should have been prohibited under federal law from buying new guns because of that hospitalization I mentioned. But he legal - he apparently legally bought guns pretty easily within days of the shooting.

SUMMERS: That's reporter Kevin Miller with Maine Public Radio. Kevin, thanks.

MILLER: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Kevin Miller
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