Robert Card’s battalion commander in the Army Reserve said Monday that his team could not have done anything more to force Card to accept mental health treatment before he killed 18 people in Lewiston last October.

Testifying virtually before the commission investigating the shooting, Lt. Col. Ryan Vasquez said that if doctors at the New York hospital that treated Card last summer wanted the Army to take stronger action, they should have done more than send their recommendations via emails, some of which others have said went unread for months.

Vasquez also reiterated many of the same points Card’s other commanders have repeatedly emphasized: Reserve commanders have little to no power over their soldiers except on drill weekends, the leaders of the Saco unit received only limited information about Card’s medical status after he was hospitalized last summer, and the Army expected the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office would do more to confront Card after he threatened the unit in September.

“I’m not sure what else we could have done,” Vasquez said. “I don’t know a lot of average Reserve units that would have handled that better than we did.”

Like Capt. Jeremy Reamer and Sgt. Kelvin Mote before him, Vasquez told the commission that his team couldn’t have done more to help Card without more cooperation from Four Winds psychiatric hospital in New York or Sagadahoc deputies. But his testimony did little to clarify the hazy jurisdictional boundaries between these groups and at points appeared to contradict itself.

Vasquez defended his unit’s failure to follow up with Card about his medical treatment after he was released from a two-week involuntary stay at Four Winds last August – a topic the commission seemed fixated on while interviewing Capt. Jeremy Reamer earlier this spring.


After Card was brought to the hospital following an aggressive confrontation with a fellow soldier, Card’s commanders received paperwork with a number of recommendations, including that they make sure Card follow his treatment plan, take steps to remove guns from his home and initiate a medical evaluation board process, which could eventually lead to his discharge from the Army.

The unit did not take any of those steps, partly because Reamer’s email system was down and he didn’t see the recommendations, Reamer previously told the commission.

On Monday, Vasquez said Card’s commanders were not given adequate information about his diagnosis, his treatment plan or recommended next steps. When a commissioner pointed out that much of this information was included on the discharge paperwork the hospital shared with Card’s commanders, Vasquez said doctors should have provided a more official communication, and that’s why he didn’t initiate a medical board process.

“Saying that ‘I sent an email and nobody responded’ is kind of disingenuous,” he said. “When I’ve done these mental health evaluations in the past or I’ve seen them, you get very specific directions.”


He also said the unit did not have a full-time medical officer to follow up on the case – just a civilian administrator based in Kentucky who tracks medical cases as part of his job.


Vasquez suggested that Card’s doctors in New York likely violated Department of Defense policy by not providing more information about Card to his commanders and Sagadahoc deputies about the threat he may have posed. But according to the policy he cited to the commission, civilian hospitals like Four Winds are often subject to state laws, not DOD policy, and Vazquez appeared unsure exactly how the lines of communication should have worked between the Army and the hospital.

Administrators at Four Winds have not responded to numerous requests from the Portland Press Herald to discuss Card’s treatment or the hospital’s policies regarding involuntary commitment.

He reiterated that the Army had no authority to confiscate Card’s privately owned guns and he pushed back on the commission’s suggestion that his team could have stored the weapons at the Saco base. He said it is Army Reserve policy not to allow personal weapons inside the base and that he would have needed to get special permission from his superiors to keep Card’s guns there.

But a recent memo that he read from to justify that claim appeared to say just the opposite: While soldiers on base are not allowed to have guns for the purpose of concealed carry, “U.S. Army Reserve command has no policy prohibiting storage of personal owned weapons.”

Vazquez said the unit’s choice not to store Card’s guns in Saco was a topic of interest in the Army Reserve’s internal investigation into its handling of Card. That statement appeared to surprise commission member Geoffrey Rushlau, who said the commission has not yet received any findings or transcripts of interviews with anyone in the unit.

“This is something of a hindrance to our work,” Rushlau said.

An Army spokesperson has said that the internal report could come out any day now. It is expected to be followed shortly by a separate report from the Army Inspector General.

The commission’s final report is expected later this summer.

This story is part of an ongoing collaboration with FRONTLINE (PBS) and Maine Public 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.

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