Maine shooter’s family raised mental health alarm five months before mass shooting

The family of Robert Card had reportedly raised an alarm about his deteriorating mental health five months before the suspected gunman went on a shooting spree that killed 18 people in the small town of Lewiston, Maine.

Authorities on Monday said that Card’s “concerned” family had alerted the local sheriff about his mental health while in possession of firearms in May this year.

Sheriff Joel Merry said the Sagadohoc County Sheriff’s Office contacted the officials from Card’s army reserve unit, who confirmed they would talk with him and ensure he received the necessary medical care.

After the shooting killed dozens, law enforcement looked for him for days until they eventually found his body in a box trailer. He appeared to have died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Card – who was identified as a suspect in the shootings – underwent a mental health assessment last summer when he started displaying erratic behaviour at an army training facility in New York, according to officials. A bulletin dispatched to law enforcement shortly after the recent attack stated that Card had been admitted to a mental health facility for a two-week period after reporting “hearing voices and threats to shoot up” a military base.

It was also reported that Maine police were warned that he would “snap and commit a mass shooting” less than six weeks before he allegedly went on his violent rampage.

The Maine National Guard asked local police to conduct a welfare check on Card, an Army reservist, back in September after he made threats against his US army base, a law enforcement source told CNN.

A statewide awareness alert was issued in mid-September asking every law enforcement agency in the state to watch for Card – but police were unable to locate him.

Sheriff Merry said his deputy conducted a welfare check at Card’s home.

The sergeant was warned that “when [Card] answers the door at his trailer, in the past he usually does so with a handgun in hand out of view from the person outside”.

But there was no sign of the reservist at his home.

A file 6 missing person’s report was then filed by the responding officer, before the case was closed on 1 October, CNN reported.

The deputy who had visited Card’s home next reached out to Card’s brother, according to the officials. The brother said he would work to secure any firearms that Card had access to.

Authorities recovered a multitude of weapons while searching for Card after the shooting and believe he had legally purchased them, including a Ruger SFAR rifle found in his car, officials said Monday. A Smith & Wesson M&P15 rifle and Smith & Wesson M&P .40-caliber handgun were with his body.

The documents made public by the sheriff’s office on Monday provided the most detailed timeline to date regarding the warning signs and subsequent unsuccessful attempts to prevent Card’s actions months before the shooting that killed 18.

Card’s familiarity with guns as a firearms instructor in combination with potential mental health struggles – and the statewide alerts following his alleged threats – raises questions about existing gun safety laws and what else could have been done to prevent the tragedy.

The gunman had also attempted to buy a silencer but was unable to after he voluntarily disclosed he had been admitted to a mental health institution on a federal form, the owner of the gun shop told ABC News.

Meanwhile, thousands of Lewiston residents gathered for a vigil on Sunday night to honour the victims killed. Residents told The Independent that they were coming together “to show these people that we love them and that they’re not alone” after a shelter-in-place order was lifted and the gunman was found dead.

Additional reporting with agencies