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Examining the Response to Concerns About the Mental State of the Lewiston Shooter: Lessons Learned and the Need for Improved Protocols

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In the aftermath of the tragic mass shooting in Lewiston, Maine, new details have emerged about the shooter, Robert Card, and the concerns that were raised about his mental state prior to the incident. It has been revealed that Card's family contacted the Sagadahoc County Sheriff's Office in May, expressing their worries about his declining mental health and his access to firearms.[0] They stated that Card had been experiencing psychotic episodes and hearing voices, and they feared that he might pose a risk to himself and others.[1]

The Sheriff's Office took these concerns seriously and reached out to Card's Army Reserve unit in Saco, Maine. They were informed that Card no longer had any Army weapons and that they were aware of his mental health issues.[2] The unit commander expressed his intention to get Card the treatment he needed and believed that it was best to give him some time alone.[2] The Sheriff's Office also asked Card's family to contact them if they believed he needed an evaluation or if he posed a risk.[3]

However, further alarming information came to light in September when the Sheriff's Office received a letter from a soldier who had served with Card in the Army Reserve.[4] The soldier expressed his belief that Card might “snap and commit a mass shooting.” He described an incident in which Card had assaulted him during a car ride and threatened to open fire at a drill center in Saco. The soldier feared that Card would carry out a mass killing.

These concerns were not isolated, as at least one other reservist also believed that Card had the potential to commit a mass shooting. The Sheriff's Office received an email from Card's Army Reserve unit in September, requesting a wellness check.[0] The email stated that Card had been suffering from psychotic episodes and hearing voices, and that he had made threats to shoot up the National Guard armory in Saco.[0]

Despite these warnings and attempts to intervene, Card's actions escalated on October 25th when he opened fire at a bar and bowling alley in Lewiston, killing 18 people and injuring 13 others.[4] Following a manhunt, he was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at a recycling center where he had previously worked.[5]

The response of law enforcement and military officials to the concerns raised about Card's mental state and potential for violence is now under scrutiny. The Sagadahoc County Sheriff's Office has stated that they believe they acted appropriately and followed procedures for conducting wellness checks. Sheriff Joel Merry has emphasized that his office will evaluate its procedures in light of this tragedy.

This devastating incident highlights the importance of addressing mental health concerns and ensuring that individuals who may pose a risk to themselves or others receive the help they need. It also raises questions about the effectiveness of current protocols for assessing and responding to such concerns. Moving forward, it is crucial that law enforcement agencies and military units collaborate closely to identify and address potential threats. The goal should always be to prevent such tragedies and protect the safety and well-being of communities.

0. “Sagadahoc sheriff's office confirms receiving report of Robert Card's declining mental health before mass shooting” Lewiston Sun Journal, 31 Oct. 2023, https://www.sunjournal.com/2023/10/30/sagadahoc-sheriffs-office-confirms-receiving-report-of-robert-cards-declining-mental-health-before-mass-shooting/

1. “Maine gun was subject of numerous warnings, searches before massacre” The Washington Post, 31 Oct. 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2023/10/30/maine-shooter-warnings-sheriff-army-reserve/

2. “New Records Show What Cops Knew of ‘Declining' Maine Gunman” The Daily Beast, 31 Oct. 2023, https://www.thedailybeast.com/new-records-show-what-cops-knew-about-maine-gunman-robert-cards-declining-mental-health

3. “Army said Maine shooter should not have gun, requested welfare check” ABC News, 31 Oct. 2023, https://abcnews.go.com/US/army-maine-shooter-gun-requested-welfare-check/story?id=104496055

4. “Documents: Family, staff sergeant feared Lewiston gunman was ‘going to snap' weeks before shooting” KOAT New Mexico, 31 Oct. 2023, https://www.koat.com/article/maine-gunman-robert-card-lewiston-family-fears/45690860

5. “Maine Shooter's National Guard Unit Warned Cops They Feared He Would ‘Snap and Commit a Mass Shooting'” Mediaite, 30 Oct. 2023, https://www.mediaite.com/crime/maine-shooters-national-guard-unit-warned-cops-they-feared-he-would-snap-and-commit-a-mass-shooting/

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