(LEWISTON, Maine) — An independent commission will investigate last month’s mass shooting in Lewiston, Maine, that left 18 people dead and 13 others wounded, the state’s governor and attorney general announced Thursday.
Gov. Janet Mills and Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey said in a joint statement that the seven-member commission will have the authority to probe all aspects of the shooting, including how the alleged gunman, 40-year-old Robert Card, a U.S. Army reservist, managed to carry out the attack despite displaying glaring signals that his mental health was on a drastic decline leading up to the Oct. 25 shooting.
The commission — made up of legal, investigative and mental health experts — will “determine the facts of the October 25th shootings in Lewiston, including the months preceding the shootings and the police response to them,” according to the governor’s office.
“All that we ask is that you follow the facts, wherever they may lead, and that you do so in an independent and objective manner, biased by no one and guided only by the pursuit of truth,” Mills and Frey wrote in their letter to the independent commission. “As we have said, the complete facts and circumstances — including any failures or omissions — must be brought to light and known by all. The families of the victims, those who were injured, and the people of Maine and the nation deserve nothing less.”
The mass shooting unfolded in two locations: a bowling alley where a children’s league was taking place and a local bar and grill. The suspected gunman was found dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound after a massive manhunt.
“Maine is on what will be a long and difficult road to healing. As we have said, a cornerstone of our ability to heal as a people and as a state is to know the truth — in this case, the full and unvarnished facts of what happened on October 25, the months that led up to it, and the law enforcement response to it,” the letter from Mills and Frey to the commission states.
The members appointed to the commission include Daniel Wathen, former chief justice of the Maine Supreme Court, who will serve as the investigative panel’s chair.
“I am deeply honored and humbled by the responsibility that Governor Mills and Attorney General Aaron Frey have bestowed on me and the other members of the Independent Commission,” Wathen said in a statement. “It is the most important inquiry for truth that I have ever received.”
Other members appointed to the commission are Dr. Debra Baeder, the former chief forensic psychologist for the State Forensic Service in Maine; George “Toby” Dilworth, former assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Maine; and Ellen Gorman, a former associate justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.
Also appointed to the commission are Dr. Anthony Ng, a psychiatrist and medical director of community services for the Northern Light Acadia Hospital in Bangor, Maine; Geoffrey Rushlau, a former district court judge who served as a prosecuting attorney in Maine for 37 years; and Paula Silsby, a former U.S. attorney for the District of Maine.
The independent commission will be funded through the Office of the Attorney General and have the “full scope of needed resources,” including additional investigatory powers to be determined and requested by the commission, according to the governor’s office.
“At this time of great sadness for the families of the victims, the citizens of Lewiston, and the entire state of Maine, determining the facts for all those impacted is paramount to our ability to move forward and heal,” the letter from Mills and Frey to the commission states.
In their letter, Mills and Frey specifically mentioned Card’s declining mental health prior to the mass shooting.
“We must recognize that, from what we know thus far, on multiple occasions over the last ten months, concerns about Robert Card’s mental health and his behavior were brought to the attention of his Army Reservist Unit, as well as law enforcement agencies here in Maine and New York,” Mills and Frey said in their letter. “This raises crucial questions about actions taken and what more could have been done to prevent this tragedy from occurring.”
Months ahead of the Lewiston rampage, Card had displayed glaring signals that his mental health was on a downward spiral — signals which his immediate family members knew about and were concerned by, and explicitly warned law enforcement that something needed to be done, according to documents obtained by ABC News via records requests.
As far back as January, Card’s mental health had already started to decline, his family said. By May, it was getting even worse, and family members were concerned for his well-being, and that he had access to firearms.
Despite some follow-up between local police and the Army Reserve regarding Card’s apparent paranoia, verbalized threats to shoot people and recurrent aggressive behavior in recent months, the documents do not indicate that Card was ever taken into protective custody or judged mentally incompetent by a medical professional, which is required to trigger Maine’s yellow flag law.
On May 3, Card’s ex-wife and their teenage son went to the office of the Topsham School Resource Officer with concerns about Robert Card, according to an incident report from the responding officer, Sagadahoc County Deputy Chad Carleton.
In all caps at the top of that report, a notice to patrol advises to “USE CAUTION IF RESPONDING” to Card’s residence due to his “PARANOID BEHAVIOR” and that he has “10-15 FIREARMS” in his house and/or truck.
After speaking with the family, Carleton reached out to Card’s Army Reserve battalion in Saco — who in turn informed him “there has recently been considerable concern for Robert,” according to the incident report.
Carleton was told that Card “had been accusing other soldiers of calling him a sex offender which seems to coincide with some of the behavior [Card’s son] has witnessed,” he writes, but that the full extent of the issue may not have been known.
In July, while on a beer run with fellow soldiers of his Army Reserve unit, Card accused them of calling him a pedophile and even questioning the size of his manhood, then got into a physical confrontation, the letter from Card’s Army Reserve unit to the sheriff’s office says, according to the incident report. An email from a member of Card’s Army Reserve unit to the sheriff’s office says that incident led to Card being evaluated by an Army psychologist, who determined he needed further treatment.
According to the email, Card was taken to Four Winds Psychiatric Hospital in Katonah, New York, for treatment and evaluation in mid-July and was released after 14 days.
In September, the Army Reserve requested a health and welfare check for Card, after a reserve soldier expressed concern that Card was going to commit a mass shooting, according to documents from the sheriff’s office.
Authorities issued an alert known as a “File 6,” warning law enforcement agencies across the state that Card was suffering from psychotic episodes and was “known to be armed and dangerous.”
A sheriff’s office report says deputies confirmed Card’s brother was able to get his guns and that he and his father would make sure Card did not have access to any firearms.
Documents obtained by ABC News show deputies canceled the File 6 alert for Card on Oct. 18, one week before Card would ultimately open fire on men, women and children at two different locations in Lewiston.
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