Beverly Walker cries while listening to a prayer at a vigil Thursday at Festival Plaza in Auburn in honor of the victims of the Oct. 25 mass shooting. Walker is the wife of Leroy Walker and the stepmom to Joseph Walker, who was killed at Schemengees Bar & Grille. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

The legislator who sponsored Maine’s yellow flag law said Thursday that based on news reports it appears that it should have been used to keep guns away from Robert Card in the months leading up to last week’s mass shootings in Lewiston.

“Until we have official reporting, I don’t think we’re in a place to make a judgment call, but it absolutely looks like, from the reporting that’s been done, that yellow flag should have been used here,” said Sen. Lisa Keim, a Dixfield Republican who is now the assistant minority leader in the Maine Senate. “I would really like to see official reports and have some questions answered before I make a judgment call on that.”

Maine’s yellow flag law allows police to seek court orders to remove firearms from people who are experiencing a mental health crisis and are deemed to be a threat to themselves or others. But critics say the law is too burdensome and is not as effective as red flag laws adopted by more than 20 other states.

In the weeks and months leading up to the Oct. 25 mass shooting in Lewiston, family and friends grew increasingly worried that Robert Card, a 40-year-old Army reservist, was having paranoid delusions and had access to guns he might use to harm people he believed were spreading lies about him.

As debate grows about the effectiveness of Maine’s gun safety laws, the Lewiston community and the families of the 18 people killed continue to grieve and some of the 13 people injured remain hospitalized. President Biden and first lady Jill Biden will visit with the families and community leaders and thank hospital workers Friday afternoon.

Also, new details continue to emerge about the police response to the attacks, and to the warning signs beforehand. A detailed itinerary of the 48-hour search for the accused shooter released Thursday shed new light on the sprawling manhunt and numerous unfounded tips about his whereabouts.


And the U.S. Army Reserve is conducting an internal investigation into its handling of Card’s mental health problems. His erratic behavior and threats prompted his commanders to commit him to a mental health hospital in New York for two weeks during the summer while he was on a training mission there.

The Army Reserve noted the internal investigation in a report this week to the office of Sen. Angus King, I-Maine.

People attend a vigil Thursday at Festival Plaza in Auburn in honor of the victims of the Oct. 25 mass shooting in Lewiston. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Gov. Janet Mills has announced that she will create an independent commission to investigate the police response to warnings about Card and to the shootings.

Card reportedly had been hearing voices and falsely believed four businesses in the Lewiston area were broadcasting online that he was a pedophile.

But there’s no indication that law enforcement officials sought to restrict Card’s access to weapons under New York’s red flag law, which allows police or others to seek weapons restrictions in such cases, or Maine’s yellow flag law, a similar measure that requires someone to be in police protective custody and be evaluated by a medical professional before seeking a court order to restrict access to firearms.

Keim wonders why military officials in New York didn’t invoke that state’s red flag law when Card was hospitalized over the summer and why local military leaders associated with Card called off the Sagadahoc Sheriff’s Office when it was conducting a wellness check because of his mental health and threatening behavior.


According to police reports, Reserves Capt. Jeremy Reamer told deputies that Card often grew agitated but calmed down on his own and should probably “have time to himself for a bit.” Family members also told police that they would take and secure Card’s personal weapons, and the deputy in charge of the case was satisfied the situation was under control.

A week after law enforcement canceled a statewide teletype that Card was missing, armed and dangerous, Card killed 18 people and wounded 13 others at two of the businesses he thought were broadcasting that he was a pedophile.

More than 100 people attend a vigil in honor of the victims of the Oct. 25 mass shooting at Festival Plaza in Auburn on Thursday. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

“We need to wait for official documents and official sources before we try to place blame about where did this fail,” Keim said. But, she added: “Where did the process fall apart? This is exactly the scenario that was envisioned.”


David Trahan, who helped shape the yellow flag law as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance, a powerful lobbying group for gun owners, has not responded to interview requests from the Press Herald for the last week.

Trahan said in a radio interview Tuesday that he was remaining silent out of respect for the shooting victims, but felt compelled to speak because “Mainers are being inundated with false information.”


During the interview on WVOM, Trahan defended Maine’s current law, saying there appears to have been “errors of judgment” that prevented it from being used properly.

“There is nothing wrong with the yellow flag law,” Trahan said. “It was never employed, and it could have been employed multiple times.”

However, Sagadahoc County Sheriff Joel Merry said Tuesday that issues with the state’s yellow flag law prevented one of his deputies from implementing it after receiving warnings about Card in September.

Because Maine’s law requires a medical evaluation not required in other states, Sagadahoc deputies would have needed to bring Card into protective custody before they could have confiscated his guns. But deputies twice failed to find Card when they visited his home, according to police reports. On one occasion, deputies believed they might have heard Card moving around inside his trailer. But police cannot obtain a warrant to bring someone into protective custody, Merry said, and escalating the situation by trying to force their way into the home could have been dangerous.

“You start breaching doors, nothing good comes from that,” Merry said, suggesting that a red flag law would be easier for law enforcement to implement. He said he did not oversee the welfare checks on Card or the decision to not pursue them further, but he believes that his deputies acted in accordance with protocol.

Like many agencies around the state, the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office has never implemented the yellow flag law.


Since 2020, Maine’s yellow flag law has been used 81 times to prohibit people who are considered to be a risk to themselves or others from accessing firearms.


Josh Horwitz, a professor in gun violence prevention and advocacy at Johns Hopkins University who helped establish the concept behind red flag laws that exist in 21 states, said if Maine’s law was stronger, this tragedy might have been averted.

Nick Chasse hugs his girlfriend Peggy Henckel at a vigil Thursday at Festival Plaza in Auburn in honor of the victims of the Oct. 25 mass shooting. Henckel used to work at Schemengees Bar & Grille with Joseph Walker, who was killed in the shootings. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

He called the state’s yellow flag law – the only one of its kind in the U.S. – and “odd compromise.”

“This is something that may be hard for people to hear, but this was a policy choice that officials made, and they clearly made the wrong choice,” he said.

Horwitz said other mass shooters in recent history showed clear warning signs prior to their attacks, but Card’s behavior still stands out.


“There were so many opportunities to intervene, but in the end, they couldn’t find him,” he said. “For law enforcement, they have plenty of authority after a crime has been committed, but in other cases, there is confusion about what they can do. This is where a red flag law would help.”

Perhaps the biggest deficiency in Maine’s law, Horwitz said, is that someone must be in custody before a mental health evaluation can be made. With red flag laws, family members can petition a court to temporarily remove guns. Card’s family didn’t have this option.

He said red flag laws are not meant to stigmatize anyone with mental illness and most people with mental illness are never going to be violent.

“But if we focus on actual threats, we don’t need to worry about what the diagnosis is or how long it’s been an issue. You just get the guns first and remove that immediate risk,” Horwitz said.

Staff Writers Eric Russell and John Terhune contributed to this report.

Related Headlines

Comments are not available on this story.