Maine State Police officials, facing the camera, testify Thursday before the commission investigating the law enforcement response to the mass shooting in Lewiston. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA — On Oct. 22, Robert Card wrote the warning that no one saw until it was too late.

He was having issues, he wrote. He had had enough.

Maine State Police Col. William Ross testifies during a hearing of the independent commission investigating the law enforcement response to the Lewiston mass shooting on Thursday in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

And he had been trained to hurt people.

That message, found later by police on Card’s cellphone, is just one piece of evidence contained in a massive police case file on Robert Card, who killed 18 people in two Lewiston restaurants on Oct. 25 and prompted a 48-hour manhunt featuring hundreds of law enforcement officials from around the Northeast. It was one of several new details revealed by Maine State Police during testimony Thursday before the state commission investigating the mass shooting.

State police also testified that Card bought the rifle used in the shooting – a .308 caliber semi-automatic Ruger – on July 6, just days before he was in New York to train with his U.S. Army Reserve unit and ended up hospitalized at a psychiatric facility. The gun was purchased from Fine Line Gun Shop in Poland.

While many details remain sealed to the public, Maine State Police officials also revealed new information about how the agency led the search for Card – including a detailed explanation about why it took two days after the shootings to locate Card’s body.


“Thank goodness we found him when we did,” Col. William Ross, chief of the Maine State Police said. “We certainly wish we found him earlier.”

Maine State Police officers were flooded with tips and false leads as they scrambled to set up a command center and coordinate hundreds of officers from different agencies in the hours after the mass shooting in Lewiston in October, agency officials told the commission. They described chaotic scenes and defended decisions made during the search for the suspect, including an order to not immediately approach his car in case it was a trap.


State police faced criticism in the aftermath of the 48-hour manhunt that followed Card’s rampage, including questions about why it took so long to find his body and why there was a delay in tracking him from the Lisbon boat launch where his abandoned vehicle was found.

The commission spent several minutes pressing Sgt. Greg Roy, who commands the state police’s tactical team, on why police did not quickly begin a search using a trained dog when they found Card’s vehicle the night of Oct. 25.

Roy, like his commanders, stood by the move.


“A high-risk K-9 track, which is what this would be, is extremely challenging and extremely dangerous,” he said. “Against this individual, under these circumstances, I would not even consider that an option.”

If Card did have a night-vision scope, as police feared, he would have been able to easily ambush officers pursuing through the dark, Roy said. And police had reason to believe that at least one first responder was somewhere in the woods or on the walking path off the boat ramp, which increased the risk of friendly fire.

Many of the hundreds of officers from other agencies who descended on Lewiston immediately after the shooting were eager to investigate right away, said Major Lucas Hare, supervisor of the operations division for the Maine State Police. But for the leading investigatory agency, Hare said it was important to slow things down to ensure that the search was methodical – and to keep officers safe.

Hare said the decision to delay an immediate search of Card’s vehicle was partly out of fear that it was a trap. He cited a well-known 1997 shooting case in which a man named Carl Drega killed four people in Colebrook, New Hampshire, drove a stolen police cruiser to Bloomfield, Vermont, hid near the parked cruiser, and shot several more officers when they approached it.

“That was my immediate thought: ‘This is an ambush of some nature,’” Hare said. Card’s military background and possible night-vision scope made officers more wary about a possible ambush.

“Some night when you’re home, stand in the dark and have someone walk around with a flashlight,” Hare told the commission. “Now imagine you’re holding a rifle – how easy would it be to ambush that person?”


A K-9 search also likely would have been an inefficient use of resources, Roy said. Even if a dog had managed to pick up Card’s scent from his abandoned vehicle – which Roy said was unlikely given the three hours between the shooting and when police were ready to conduct a search – police could not have safely or effectively confronted Card with only a single K-9 unit.

Major Lucas Hare, supervisor of the operations division for Maine State Police, testifies during a hearing of the independent commission investigating the law enforcement response to the Lewiston mass shooting on Thursday in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

The only viable alternative would have been to devote most or all of the assembled SWAT resources to support the search, Roy said. But at the time, police weren’t sure that Card was in the area, and dispatch centers were already being overwhelmed by tips about possible sightings and additional shootings. Rather than commit all his resources to a search he thought was unlikely to be successful, Roy said he chose to spread out the various tactical teams supporting the investigation so they could respond quickly wherever Card emerged.


Card’s connection to Maine Recycling Corp. – his former employer and the location where he was eventually found dead in a trailer in an overflow parking lot – was established “fairly quickly,” Hare said. But it was just one of many tips they received, including that he might have access to a boat and a motorcycle. That testimony echoed what Lisbon Police told the commission last week.

At the Lewiston police department, Hare said he heard one call come in early on about a possible active shooter at DaVinci’s Eatery, though it was determined within minutes to be a false report.

Police also were called to a report of an active shooter at the Walmart distribution center – another false report that generated some confusion as police responded, Hare said.


A loud noise and a locked bathroom at Springworks Farm in Lisbon frightened one employee into calling the police for help – yet another call that officers had to check on but that ultimately was nothing more than a distraction.

Police received hundreds of tips in the two days it took to find Card. Most – like one report that led officers to confront a suspect who had an “uncanny likeness” to Card but who was later ruled out as the shooter – were honest mistakes. But some were more nefarious.

They received a call to a veterans’ suicide hotline from a person claiming to be Robert Card that turned out to be a hoax and spent time interviewing a person who claimed they were involved in the shooting, though it turned out he was lying.


Commissioners pressed Roy and other officers to answer some questions that have come up before, such as why police didn’t search the overflow lot where Card was found dead sooner.

Roy said Maine Recycling was on a list of several locations associated with Card.


“I wouldn’t characterize it as direct info he was there; otherwise, we would have searched it much sooner,” he said.

Eventually, on Oct. 27, after police had shifted from an intelligence-based response to methodical searches of the area, the overflow trailers were searched, and a team discovered Card’s body in the last trailer they were attempting to clear.

“It was a vertical door that lifted up,” Roy said. “The individuals on my team immediately, upon opening the door, saw feet.”

Ross, the chief of the Maine State Police, said the department has taken steps internally to evaluate the police response. Pennsylvania State Police have reviewed actions taken by the Maine State Police tactical team, and that report will be provided to the commission when it is ready, he said.

Ross said the Maine Department of Public Safety also will bring in another agency to conduct a comprehensive review of the police response to the Lewiston shooting, but it has not yet selected the group that will do that work. The agency should have itself handled a similar mass shooting in the past, Ross said, but he stressed that it would be difficult to find a situation that closely mirrored the Lewiston shooting and manhunt because most shooters are killed or captured on the scene.

“This is extremely unique and was extremely challenging for us to go through,” Ross said.



While the department continues to examine its own response to Lewiston, Ross confirmed the criminal investigation into Card is now closed.

Thursday’s meeting was the fourth in a series of public meetings the commission is holding to gather testimony from police, family members of victims and others connected to the shooting. The commission also is conducting some of its proceedings in private, though it’s unclear to what extent.

Chair Daniel Wathen said the private meetings include regular Zoom calls to discuss scheduling.

“The things we’re doing, other than that where we’re perhaps meeting with someone, I really can’t reveal that,” Wathen said after Thursday’s meeting.

Wathen would not say how often the commission is meeting privately to conduct business, or whether it has interviewed Card’s family.

The commission, which was appointed by Gov. Janet Mills and Attorney General Aaron Frey, is tasked with investigating the events leading up to the shooting, the law enforcement response to it, and whether more could have been done to stop Card.

Mills signed into law earlier this week a bill granting the commission subpoena power to compel witness testimony and obtain documents, though Wathen said Thursday that it’s too soon to know if the commission plans to issue any subpoenas.

Wathen said the commission plans to issue a preliminary report by April 1 meant to provide guidance to legislators and Mills as they examine policy changes, including new gun safety laws, this spring.

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