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Authorities had cause to take Maine gunman into custody before mass shooting, commission finds

Sheriff could have taken guns from killer before Maine mass shooting, commission says
Sheriff could have taken guns from killer before Maine mass shooting, commission says 02:17

An independent commission investigating a mass shooting last year that left 18 dead in Maine issued an interim report Friday that found that a sheriff's office had cause to take the killer into custody beforehand and take away his guns.

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills and Attorney General Aaron Frey had assembled the commission to review both the events leading up to Oct. 25, when Army reservist Robert Card killed 18 people in a bowling alley and a bar, and the response to the attack.

Led by a former chief justice of Maine's highest court, the commission also included a former U.S. attorney and the former chief forensic psychologist for the state. It held seven sessions starting in November, hearing from law enforcement, survivors and victims' family members and members of the U.S. Army Reserve, as it explored whether anything could have been done to prevent the mass shooting and what changes should be made going forward.

Card, who was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot after a two-day search, was well known to law enforcement, and his family and fellow service members had raised concerns about his behavior, deteriorating mental health and potential for violence before the shootings.

In May, relatives warned police that Card had grown paranoid, and they expressed concern about his access to guns.

In July, Card was hospitalized in a psychiatric unit for two weeks after shoving a fellow reservist and locking himself in a motel room.

In August, the Army barred him from handling weapons while on duty and declared him nondeployable.

And in September, a fellow reservist texted an Army supervisor about his growing concerns about Card, saying, "I believe he's going to snap and do a mass shooting."

But law enforcement officials told commission members that Maine's yellow flag law makes it difficult to remove guns from potentially dangerous people.

"I couldn't get him to the door. I can't make him open the door," said Sgt. Aaron Skolfield, who visited Card's home for a welfare check in September. "If I had kicked in the door, that would've been a violation of the law."

In later testimony, those involved in the manhunt for Card that terrified residents in the shooting's aftermath acknowledged potential missed opportunities to find him. 

Some of the most emotional testimony came from family members who tearfully described scenes of blood, chaos and panic followed by unfathomable loss.

Rachael Sloat, who was engaged to be married to shooting victim Peton Berwer Ross, told the committee that her heart breaks every time their 2-year-old daughter asks for her daddy.

"Where are you?" Sloat said. "Every politician, every member of law enforcement, every registered voter in the country —I want you to hear those words. 'Where are you?' Because my fellow Americans, where are you? We failed my little girl."

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