Sagadahoc County Sheriff Joel Merry in his office in Bath on Oct. 31. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

An independent third-party review of the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office response to mental health concerns about Lewiston mass shooter Robert Card has determined that deputies “responded reasonably under the circumstances at the time.”

The results of the 93-page report, which were compiled by Michael A. Cunniff, an attorney and veteran investigator, were made public by Sagadahoc Sheriff Joel Merry on Thursday.

“The review has found that responding deputies followed the law and their training with the information available at the time,” Merry said in a statement Thursday night. “We also understand that there are additional reviews underway of the mass shootings and our office will cooperate fully.”

One of the additional reviews Merry referred to is the investigation being conducted by the Independent Commission to Investigate the Facts of the Tragedy in Lewiston, formed by Gov. Janet Mills. The seven-member commission held its first meeting in November. The commission is chaired by Daniel Wathen, a former chief justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, and includes several former judges and prosecutors, as well as a forensic psychologist and a psychiatrist.

The commission has been tasked with investigating the facts surrounding the shootings, including Card’s background and mental health history and the law enforcement response before and after the shootings.

Card, a 40-year-old Bowdoin resident, killed 18 people and wounded 13 others during a mass shooting that took place at two locations in Lewiston on the night of Oct. 25. Card died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. His body was found two days after the shooting near a recycling facility in Lisbon.


The shootings, the deadliest in Maine’s history, took place at Just-In-Time Recreation, a Lewiston bowling alley, and Schemengees Bar & Grille in Lewiston. Maine State Police confirmed that they recovered a semiautomatic Ruger AR-10 style rifle from Card’s vehicle, along with a Smith & Wesson handgun and a Smith & Wesson AR-15 style rifle near his body.

“The mass shooting on Oct. 25 in Lewiston has changed the community and our state forever,” Merry said. “Our focus remains on supporting those who were hurt and the families and friends of those who were killed. At the same time, it’s critical for our agency to look objectively at our actions and make changes to help reduce the risk that something like this will happen again.”

In addition to reviewing the actions of Sagadahoc County deputies, the report also examines questions about Maine’s yellow-flag law, voluntary psychiatric evaluations, emergency involuntary commitment, protective custody and firearm confiscation.

Cunniff is a former supervisory special agent for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration with more than 27 years of experience leading investigations spanning multiple jurisdictions. He is a founding partner in the law firm, McCloskey, Mina, Cunniff & Frawley, which is based in Portland.


The Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office commissioned the review after acknowledging that it had been warned twice before the shooting took place about Card’s mental health issues, but was never able to make physical contact with Card.


In a previous interview, Merry told the Press Herald that Robert Card’s family contacted his office in May with concerns. The sheriff’s office also received a request for a wellness check from Card’s Army Reserve unit in September.

Documents the sheriff’s office released in late October include a police report that said Card’s ex-wife and son told police they were worried about Card’s mental health because he was hearing voices and experiencing paranoia. His ex-wife told a deputy that Card had picked up between 10 and 15 firearms that had been stored at his brother’s house.

In September, the sheriff’s office also received an email from Card’s U.S. Army Reserve unit in Saco asking for a wellness check.

A letter from the U.S. Army Reserve included in a police report said that, while at West Point, New York, in July, Card accused fellow soldiers of calling him a pedophile and shoved one of them. He later spent 14 days at a psychiatric hospital before being released.

A friend of Card’s also reported that Card had told him he “has guns and is going to shoot up the drill center at Saco and other places,” according to the letter. It said the friend “is concerned that Card is going to snap and commit a mass shooting.”

Members of Maine’s congressional delegation have been pressing the U.S. Army for a comprehensive investigation into how it handled an alarming number of warning signs connected to Card’s mental health and well being prior to the Lewiston shooting.


“This tragedy warrants a much broader, independent inquiry,” the delegation wrote in its letter to Lt. Gen. Donna W. Martin, the Army’s inspector general. “We must work to fully understand what happened – and what could have been done differently that might have prevented the Lewiston shooting – on the local, state and federal levels. We must also give the American people confidence that the investigation is comprehensive and unbiased.”

Sagadahoc County deputies visited Card’s residence on Sept. 15 and 16, Merry said. After the first visit, when Card was not home, the sheriff’s office sent a File 6 – an attempt to locate teletype – to other law enforcement agencies. Card’s car was located at his residence when deputies visited Sept. 16, but no one answered the door. The deputy called for backup from a Kennebec County sheriff’s deputy, and the two “attempted contact with Card without success.”

“Card could be heard moving around inside the trailer but would not answer the door,” the police report said. “Due to being in a very disadvantageous position we decided to back away.”

On Sept. 17, a sheriff’s deputy made contact with Card’s brother, who said he would work to secure any firearms Card had access to. The deputy also asked that the family call back if they believed Card needed an evaluation or was a risk to himself or others.

In his report, Cunniff identifies two officers within the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office as being involved with Card and his family members. Cunniff said that Deputy Chad Carleton and Sgt. Aaron Skolfield “were primarily responsible for the SCSO’s responses to concerns about Mr. Card’s mental health over the course of two days in May and three days September 2023, respectively.”

Cunniff in his conclusion says that Skolfield and Carleton “each diligently explored the nature and extent of the concerns about Mr. Card’s mental health and that it was responsible for them to conclude under the totality of circumstances that Mr. Card did not pose an imminent risk of self-harm or harm to others.”


Cunniff also determined that “there were insufficient grounds to take Mr. Card into protective custody or to take other actions.” Cunniff said that it was “objectively reasonable” for the police officers to defer a mental health evaluation.


But Cunniff also made three recommendations for the sheriff’s office to enhance its handling of future situations involving an individual’s mental health.

He recommends that the sheriff’s office strengthen its mental health training programs for handling mentally ill persons who pose a risk of self-harm or harm to others.

Cunniff recommends the department take full advantage of its partnership with a “newly available health liaison resource,” including the development of protocols for handling incidents with mental health components.

And finally, Cunniff said the sheriff’s office should explore the creation of a multijurisdictional and multidisciplinary mental health response team.

The team would be responsible for oversight of police responses to mental health situations, would assist law enforcement with the procedures necessary to take a person of concern into protective custody, and would take steps to lessen threats, allowing officers to confiscate weapons from persons who pose a risk of self -harm or harm to others.

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