Daryl Reed, one of several members of Card’s Army Reserve unit, testifies in Augusta on Thursday during a hearing held the commission investigating the Lewiston shootings. Reed said Card had threatened him during the unit’s annual training last July. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

AUGUSTA — His family had to remove his guns, he had to take medication and a friend was going to move in with him. Those were the conditions Robert Card was supposed to meet in order to be released from a psychiatric hospital in August, a fellow Army Reserve member told the commission investigating the Lewiston mass shooting.

“Out of those three things, I don’t think any of them happened,” Staff Sgt. Daryl Reed said on Thursday, the six-month anniversary of the massacre that left 18 people dead, 13 injured and the rest of the stunned state wondering how it could have happened.

What exactly occurred at the New York hospital and why Card was allowed to leave after his involuntary two-week stint remains largely unanswered questions in a story that has slowly but surely been coming to light, one public hearing at a time.

Some Army Reserve members have told the commission that they were surprised and confused when they learned that Card had been discharged so soon after trying to attack Reed in July. One senior officer said Thursday that he assumed that meant Card wasn’t actually a danger to himself or others.

But those closest to him said it became apparent, as Card drove away his friends and family one by one, that he needed help. No one figured out how to get it to him.

“Just so you know, I love you,” Sean Hodgson, Card’s last and closest friend, remembers saying after Card punched him in the face and threatened to attack the Saco Army Reserve base in the early hours of Sept. 13. “I’ll always be there for you. I’ll never give up on you.”


But when Hodgson heard the news that a gunman had walked into Just-In-Time Recreation and started firing, he told the commission he immediately knew who was responsible.

Sean Hodgson, one of those closest to Robert Card, is sworn in to give testimony in front of the commission investigating the Lewiston mass shooting on Thursday. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer


A key question that has emerged over the course of several meetings is how seriously the Army took warnings about Card and whether they minimized the threat he posed to police.

At first, Reed said Card’s friends responded with raised eyebrows to his strange claims that people were calling him a pedophile and mocking him for the size of his genitals. When Card shared a naked picture of himself to disprove the voices he was hearing, the reservists warned him that he was likely to wind up in trouble.

It wasn’t until the unit’s annual training in New York last July that Reed said he realized just how much his friend needed help.

Within minutes of arriving in New York, Card began accusing various strangers of talking about him behind his back, including a Dunkin’ employee and the woman at the Army dorm’s front desk. When a small group went to pick up pizza and beer that evening, Card turned his attention to his bewildered friend.


“I can’t believe you, too, Reed,” the staff sergeant remembered Card saying, apparently believing he had insulted him.

Card refused to explain what he meant. Instead, he just gritted his teeth and promised to “take care of it.” A few minutes later, Card charged at Reed, who said he managed to avoid Card by scrambling around the truck.

“I didn’t want to hit him,” he told the commission. “I did yell, ‘What’s wrong with you?’

“That’s when I thought there’s something wrong. He needed more help than just a talk from his buddies.”

But not everyone in Card’s life realized then what was happening.

Master Sgt. Edward Yurek told the commission investigating the Lewiston mass shooting that he initially didn’t believe Robert Card was anything worse than a drunken soldier. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Master Sgt. Edward Yurek, who is also a Brunswick police officer, said he was skeptical at first that he was dealing with anything more than a drunken soldier. He said he had never been told that Card’s son and ex-wife had expressed concerns about his erratic behavior and access to weapons that May.


That changed the next morning when he spoke to Card’s brother, who explained that Card had become paranoid since he got over-the-counter hearing aids at the beginning of the year to combat his longstanding hearing problems.

Yurek then accepted that Card’s problem stemmed from mental health and helped the unit’s leadership team figure out how to get him admitted to the hospital for an evaluation.

“We’re all high-fiving each other because it was the perfect scenario,” he said. “We got him where he needed to be.”


Hodgson said he believed his friend when Card complained that people were talking about him behind his back. Card had never lied to him or given him reason to doubt him.

For more than 15 years he’d been a loyal friend, and the pair talked regularly on the phone to vent, share plans, or just keep each other awake during their late shifts as commercial truck drivers. In 2022, when Hodgson was at a low point and needed a place to stay, Card welcomed him into his home in Bowdoin for three months.


While other reservists expressed confusion about Card’s paranoid claims, Hodgson went to Capt. Jeremy Reamer and told him to investigate whoever was harassing his friend. He suggested Card talk to a lawyer who might be able to get people to leave him alone.

But it became clear that Card was unraveling. While at the hospital, he complained to Hodgson over the phone that he’d been misdiagnosed – his real problem was anxiety, he said, not psychosis. He vented about a woman at the hospital who he thought was talking about him. He said he didn’t like the medication he’d been given because it made him feel slow and “lazy.”

After being uncooperative for about a week, Card decided to try “playing the game,” he told Hodgson. He openly told doctors that he was smart and would be able to pass their tests – they wouldn’t be able to keep him there.

The commission investigating the Lewiston mass shooting listens to testimony from Cara Cookson, a victim witness advocate from the attorney general’s office, on the six-month anniversary of the killings. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Hodgson was under the impression that he’d have to check Card out of the hospital when he arrived. He was surprised when Card walked right out the front door.

Card’s commanders were surprised too; they believed that there would be a hearing before Card was released from the hospital, Yurek said. They were working to identify the soldiers who knew him best so they could testify about why he needed to remain in the hospital – even going so far as to plan work schedules so that the witnesses could be free at the appropriate time.

Yet there never was a hearing, at least not one the Army ever learned about. Instead, Card’s commanders found out that he was getting discharged from Hodgson as he was driving to New York to pick him up.


On the ride home, Hodgson said Card kept running through a growing list of people who had wronged him. He told Hodgson that he had punched his hospital mattress so hard that his knuckles bled.

Things got worse in the following weeks, Hodgson told the commission. The paranoid moments were happening more and more frequently, and Card’s responses were angrier and angrier. Hodgson had been planning to move in with Card in the fall, but now he found himself dragging his feet.

Yurek said he argued with Ryan Card, who said his brother was still sick. If he was truly worried that his brother was mentally ill, he should call the sheriff’s office so they could perform a welfare check, Yurek remembers saying. But he had his doubts – why would the hospital release him if he was dangerous?

“I didn’t believe Ryan Card very much,” Yurek said. “I thought Ryan Card was seeing things that he was either exaggerating or just didn’t know.”

Capt. Jeremy Reamer, of the Army Reserve in Saco, testifies before the Lewiston Commission on April 11 in Augusta. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

A month later, when Card and Hodgson were leaving the Oxford Casino on Sept. 13, Hodgson said he challenged Card about the voices he was hearing. When Card punched him in the face and began driving so erratically that Hodgson thought they were going to crash, he asked to be let out of the car so he could walk home.

He lived in a rural spot, he told the commission, and he didn’t want to be alone with Card where nobody could help if something happened.


Hodgson said he twice told his superiors about the fight – once during a phone call with Reamer that night, and again through a series of text messages to Reamer and Sgt. Kelvin Mote two days later. The texts prompted what would amount to be failed welfare checks on Card.

But at some point as Hodgson’s concerns were being relayed to Reamer, to Mote, to an Ellsworth police officer, to a dispatcher and then finally to Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Sgt. Aaron Skolfield, the urgency of his message was lost. Skolfield has said he got the impression from Army leaders that they didn’t believe Card was really dangerous – a claim Mote and Reamer have denied.

When Hodgson called Mote on the night of the shooting, he had a gut feeling that Card had done the unthinkable.

“He told me to let things play out – we don’t know for sure. I said, ‘Yes I do.’ ” Hodgson said. “I knew in my heart it was him.”

This story is part of an ongoing collaboration with FRONTLINE (PBS) that includes an upcoming documentary. It is supported through FRONTLINE’s Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Related Headlines

Comments are not available on this story.