Arthur Barnard at his home in Topsham on Wednesday. Barnard’s son, Arthur Strout, was killed in the Oct. 25 mass shooting in Lewiston at Schemengees Bar & Grille. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

The families of some of the victims of the mass shooting in Lewiston want to get involved in the commission Gov. Janet Mills created to investigate the tragedy, though it’s unclear to what extent and how it would happen.

“I have to do everything I can to stop this from ever happening again, this should not have happened,” said Arthur Barnard, who lost his son Arthur ‘Artie’ Strout in the Oct. 25 rampage that left 18 people dead and 13 injured.

Barnard spent Wednesday emptying his son’s storage unit. He put pots and pans, a hoverboard, old computers, and his grandkids’ art into boxes. He hasn’t seen camera crews around Lewiston over the last few weeks. President Biden came and went, but Barnard still breaks down every day. Last weekend he spent hours in the parking lot of a Dunkin’ on and off the phone with victim support services. The tragedy is as close and present as ever for him, and he is determined to channel that grief into action.

“The things I want to do, the things I want to change, I can’t do it alone,” Barnard said. He wants to see AR-15-style weapons banned nationwide, background checks, and better mental health services. He started by writing a letter to the governor.

“I know that you are, or have formed a task force looking into this tragic event,” Barnard said in the letter he sent to Mills on Tuesday and shared with the Press Herald. “I would like to know if I can be a part of this process from a victim’s standpoint and perspective. Also, as a voice and advocate for other families.”

Barnard and other families are looking to play a more formal role in the Independent Commission to Investigate the Facts of the Tragedy in Lewiston, which met for the first time Monday after being created this month by the governor via an executive order. “Everybody is very interested in the committee and thinking about ways in which we can learn and make changes to prevent this from happening again,” said Ben Gideon, an attorney who represents Strout’s family.


He is part of a team of lawyers from four firms representing family members of victims and people injured in the shootings. He said they have heard from other families interested in having a more formal role with the commission. He stressed that the families are not angry with the governor or commission, but want to be more involved.

Gideon said that he talked with Mills’ chief of staff on Wednesday and that “they’re very receptive and open to the families participating,” though he wasn’t sure yet what exactly that would look like.

Barnard would like to have a seat on the commission, which currently has seven members appointed by Mills and Attorney General Aaron Frey. He wants to represent the families of victims. Losing someone in such a violent and preventable way, he says, is something that’s impossible to understand until it’s happened to you.

“All this is going to fade from the public view, and there will be some next news story, but for us, this doesn’t fade,” Barnard said.

The request comes as the commission’s work is just getting started and as officials are still ironing out details.

The mass shooting by Robert Card, of Bowdoin, was unprecedented in Maine history, and commission Chair Dan Wathen emphasized Monday that the commission members have a “daunting task” before them as they seek answers about what led to the shootings and what the response was like afterward.



At the same time, families are asking for more involvement, and some lawmakers have said they want more say over the commission.

“As the governor and attorney general said, the complete facts and circumstances – including any failures or omissions – must be brought to light and known by all,” Ben Goodman, a Mills spokesperson, said in an email. “The families of the victims, those who were injured, and the people of Maine and the nation deserve nothing less.”

Goodman said the governor is looking forward to receiving and reviewing Barnard’s letter.

He did not directly answer a question about whether the governor considered including any victims’ family members on the commission, which includes several former judges and prosecutors, a forensic psychologist, and a psychiatrist.

“We would just reiterate that the governor recognizes that the families of those who were killed and injured deserve full and timely answers and have a critically important perspective to share,” he said. “She hopes and imagines that the independent commission is interested in hearing from those family members who would like to share their questions and experiences.”


Arthur Barnard inside of his son Arthur Strout’s storage unit after Barnard and some of his family members cleaned it out Wednesday. Barnard’s son was killed in the Oct. 25 shooting at Schemengees Bar & Grille. Barnard said he was at the storage unit a few days earlier but couldn’t bring himself to open the door. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Gideon said the commission could add a representative for families or a liaison to come to meetings, gather information, and communicate back to them, and said he plans to talk to the commission to see what they would be open to.

“I think they will be very thorough and professional,” he said. “I don’t think having family members represented will negatively impact that. … Having someone who was really impacted by this at the table is important.”

In response to questions about what role families might play in the commission’s work, Kevin Kelley, a spokesperson for the commission, said the commission is working on the framework for its investigation.

“However, the chairman has pledged that, so far as practical, the commission intends to be as public as possible, while being sensitive to privacy concerns, as long as it does not hinder its fact-finding mission,” Kelley said. “The views of victims and their families will be a critical component of the investigation.”


Some families are OK with a less active role with the commission – at least for now.


Leroy Walker Sr., whose son Joe Walker was killed at Schemengees Bar & Grille, said he is happy with the commission the governor put together and content to wait and see what its investigation reveals.

“If I have to be involved later, that’s fine, but that’s not going to help me right now to heal,” Walker said. “What will help me is for the governor to get through the first part of this. … We might not like everything that comes out of it, but I want to see what the professionals come up with first.”

Barnard said that if he doesn’t get a seat on the commission, he will find other ways to be involved.

“I’m not going to stop trying to change this,” he said. “And these shootings aren’t going to stop. What do we have to do to get them to stop? That’s what I want to work on with all these other families. I know this hurts, I’m still hurting and grieving, but we have to. We have to do something.”

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