Army Reservist's Mental Decline Led to Deadly Lewiston Shooting Despite Friend's Warning

Army reservist's mental health warning ignored before deadly Maine shooting, highlighting critical need to take such concerns seriously and improve response protocols.

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Rafia Tasleem
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Army Reservist's Mental Decline Led to Deadly Lewiston Shooting Despite Friend's Warning

Army Reservist's Mental Decline Led to Deadly Lewiston Shooting Despite Friend's Warning

Robert Card, a 40-year-old U.S. Army reservist, carried out Maine's deadliest mass shooting on October 25, 2024, killing 18 people and wounding 13 at a bar and bowling alley in Lewiston. Card's best friend and fellow reservist, Sean Hodgson, had warned authorities a month prior that Card was going to "snap and do a mass shooting," but his warning was downplayed.

Testimony from other Army reservists revealed that Card had been experiencing months of paranoia and confrontations, accusing colleagues and others of calling him a pedophile or making comments about his genitalia. Despite being hospitalized for a psychiatric evaluation in July, Card was released after about two weeks. The shooting occurred shortly after.

Why this matters: The tragedy highlights the critical importance of taking mental health concerns and warning signs seriously, especially when they involve individuals with access to firearms. It also raises questions about the effectiveness of existing protocols for assessing and responding to potential threats within military organizations.

The independent commission investigating the incident found that Card's commander, Jeremy Reamer, did not follow up on recommendations from the New York hospital staff to ensure Card attended counseling and lost access to his weapons. The commission also heard from the director of victim services in the Maine Attorney General's office about the extensive work done to help the families and survivors of the shooting.

The failure of authorities to remove Card's weapons in the weeks before the shooting has become the subject of a monthslong investigation in Maine, which has also passed new gun safety laws since the tragedy. The commission concluded that the Sagadahoc County sheriff's office had probable cause under Maine's "yellow flag" law to take Card into custody and seize his guns, but they failed to follow up on Hodgson's warning.

Hodgson testified that he had texted leaders of his reserve unit, telling them to change the passcode to the gate and arm themselves if Card showed up, as Card had punched him in the face and Hodgson believed he would "snap and do a mass shooting." Other reservists also witnessed Card's mental and physical decline, leading to his two-week hospitalization in July.

The shooting targeted two locations, Just-In-Time Recreation and Schemengees Bar and Grille, where Card believed people were talking about him. The commission heard from a victim witness advocate about the challenges in providing immediate help to those impacted by the shooting. Governor Janet Mills acknowledged the six-month anniversary of the tragedy, stating that the community's hearts are still healing and the road to healing is long.

Key Takeaways

  • Army reservist Robert Card killed 18, wounded 13 in Maine's deadliest mass shooting.
  • Card's friend warned authorities a month prior, but the warning was downplayed.
  • Card had mental health issues, but was released from psychiatric evaluation before the shooting.
  • Authorities failed to remove Card's weapons or take him into custody despite warning signs.
  • The tragedy led to new gun safety laws and a commission investigating the incident.