By Holly Ramer | Associated Press
Authorities publicly identified Robert Card as a person of interest about four hours after he shot and killed 18 people and wounded 13 others during attacks last week at a bowling alley and bar in Lewiston, Maine. But Card, who was found dead two days after his rampage, had been well known to law enforcement for months. Here’s a look at some of the interactions he had with sheriff’s deputies, his family and members of his Army Reserve unit, as gleaned from statements made by authorities and documents they released:
On May 3, Card’s 18-year-old son and ex-wife told a school resource officer in Topsham, about 15 miles (25 kilometers) southeast of Lewiston, that they were growing concerned about his deteriorating mental health.
A Sagadahoc County sheriff’s deputy met with the son and ex-wife that day and the son said that around last January, his father started claiming that people around him were saying derogatory things about him. He said his father had become angry and paranoid, and described an incident several weeks earlier in which he accused the son of saying things about him behind his back.
Card’s ex-wife told the deputy that Card had recently picked up 10-15 guns from his brother’s home, and she was worried about their son spending time with him.
A sheriff’s deputy spoke to a sergeant from Card’s Army Reserve unit, who assured him that he and others would “figure out options to get Robert help.”
Card and other members of the Army Reserve’s 3rd Battalion, 304th Infantry Unit were in New York for training on July 15 when he accused several of them of calling him a pedophile, shoved one of them and locked himself in his motel room. The next morning, he told another soldier that he wanted people to stop talking about him.
“I told him no one was talking about him and everyone here was his friend. Card told me to leave him alone and tried to slam the door in my face,” the soldier later told Maine authorities, according to documents released by the sheriff’s office.
New York State Police responded and took Card to a hospital at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point for an evaluation.
“During the four hours I was with Card, he never spoke, just stared through me without blinking,” an unidentified soldier in the unit wrote in a letter to the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office.
Card spent 14 days at the Four Winds Psychiatric Hospital in Katonah, New York, which is a few miles (kilometers) from West Point.
Card returned home on Aug. 3, according to the Army. At that time, the Army directed that while on duty, he shouldn’t be allowed to have a weapon, handle ammunition or participate in live-fire activity. It also declared him to be non-deployable.
On Aug. 5, Card went to Coastal Defense Firearms in Auburn, next to Lewiston, to pick up a gun suppressor, or silencer, that he had ordered online, according to the shop’s owner, Rick LaChapelle.
LaChapelle said to that point, federal authorities had approved the sale of the device, which is used to quiet gunshots. But he said the shop halted the sale after Card filled out a form and answered “yes” to the question: “Have you ever been adjudicated as a mental defective OR have you ever been committed to a mental institution?”
Card was polite when notified of the denial, mentioned something about the military and said he would “come right back” after consulting his lawyer, LaChapelle said.
On Sept. 15, a deputy was sent to visit Card’s home in Bowdoin, about 10 miles (16 kilometers) southeast of Lewiston, for a wellness check. Card’s unit requested it after a soldier said he was afraid Card was “going to snap and commit a mass shooting” because he was hearing voices again, according to documents released by the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office. The deputy went to Card’s trailer but couldn’t find him.
The sheriff’s office then sent out a statewide alert seeking help locating Card. It included a warning that he was known to be “armed and dangerous” and that officers should use extreme caution.
The same deputy and another one returned to Card’s trailer on Sept. 16. Card’s car was there and the deputy said he could hear him moving around the trailer, but no one answered the door, according to the deputy’s report.
The report included a letter written by an unidentified member of Card’s Reserve unit who described the July incidents as well as getting a call the “night before last” from another soldier about Card. The timing isn’t clear, but according to the letter, the soldier said he and Card were returning from a casino when Card punched him and said he planned to shoot up places, including an Army Reserve drill center in Saco, Maine.
“He also said I was the reason he can’t buy guns anymore because of the commitment,” the soldier wrote.
A deputy reached out to the Reserve unit commander, who assured him the Army was trying to get treatment for Card. The commander also said he thought “it best to let Card have time to himself for a bit.”
On Sept. 17, the deputy reached out to Card’s brother, who said he had put Card’s firearms in a gun safe at the family farm and would work with their father to move the guns elsewhere and make sure Card couldn’t get other guns.
Card didn’t report to weekend Army reserve training activities in September or October, telling his unit that he had work conflicts and was unable to attend, the Army said.
On Oct. 18, the sheriff’s office canceled its statewide alert seeking help locating Card.
One week later, shortly before 7 p.m. on Oct. 25, authorities began receiving 911 calls about a gunman at the Just-In-Time Recreation bowling alley in Lewiston. Four local police officers who were in plain clothes at a nearby gun range arrived at the shooting scene a minute and a half after the first 911 call, but the gunman had already left. Other Lewiston officers arrived at the scene within four minutes of the first call.
Twelve minutes after the first 911 call and as the first state troopers began arriving at the bowling alley, authorities began getting calls about a gunman at Schemengees Bar and Grille about 4 miles away. Officers arrived at the bar five minutes later, but again, the attacker had already left.
Seven people were killed at the bowling, eight were killed at the bar and three others died at the hospital, authorities said.
Video surveillance footage from the bar showed a white male armed with a rifle getting out of a car and entering the building, according to Maine State Police documents released Tuesday. Another portion showed a man “walk through the bar while seeking out and shooting at patrons.”
Authorities released a photo of Card an hour after the shootings and his family members were the first to identify him. Residents were urged to stay inside with their doors locked while hundreds of officers searched for the gunman.
Later on the night of the attack, Card’s car was found near a boat launch in Lisbon, about 8 miles (13 kilometers) from Lewiston. During a massive search over the next two days, authorities focused on property his family owns in Bowdoin.
Card was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot Friday night at a recycling center where he used to work.
Associated Press writers David Sharp, Jake Bleiberg, Robert F. Bukaty, David R. Martin and Matt Rourke in Lewiston, Maine, contributed to this report along with Patrick Whittle in Portland, Maine, Bernard Condon in New York, Lindsay Whitehurst in Washington, D.C., Kimberlee Kruesi in Nashville and Michael Casey in Boston.