Authorities felt unsafe confronting Maine mass shooter despite acknowledging he was a threat

Authorities knew Army reservist Robert Card was a potential threat before he opened fire on a bowling alley and a restaurant in Maine on October 25, but they decided not to confront him because doing so might “make things worse.”

Video released to the Portland Press Herald and sent to the Associated Press features a call made on Sept. 16 between Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Sgt. Aaron Skolfield and Army Reserve Capt. Jeremy Reamer.

According to the AP, “Military officials alerted police in September that Card had been hospitalized in July after exhibiting erratic behavior while training, that he still had access to weapons and that he had threatened to ‘shoot up’ an Army reserve center in Saco, a city in southern Maine. The sheriff’s department responded by briefly staking out the Saco facility and going to Card’s home in Bowdoin for what Reamer described as a ‘welfare check.'”

(Video: YouTube)

Reamer appeared concerned only with whether or not Card was “alive and breathing.”

“The only thing I would ask is if you could just document it,” Reamer told Skolfield. “Just say, ‘He was there, he was uncooperative. But we confirmed that he was alive and breathing.’ And then we can go from there. That’s, from my end here, all we’re really looking for.”

Reamer told the officer that Card had refused medical treatment after leaving the hospital, prompting Skolfield to mention Maine’s yellow flag law, which would potentially allow him to remove Card’s guns.

Card’s unmedicated state “obviously, is a hurdle we have to deal with,” Skolfield said. “But at the same time, we don’t want to throw a stick of dynamite on a pool of gas, either — make things worse.”

Reamer seemed to agree.

“I’m a cop myself,” he said. “Obviously, I don’t want you guys to get hurt or do anything that would put you guys in a compromising position.”

Auburn City Councilor Leroy Walker Sr.’s son, Joseph Walker, was the manager of Schemengees Bar & Grill before Card killed him.

The grieving father told the AP in a text message that the video of the conversation made him “sick.”

“I would like to know what we train these people to do,” he said. “Is it just to deliver mail? Or stop innocent people that may be driving 11 miles [per hour] over the speed limit?”

The Cards, Skolfield told Reamer, are “a big family in this area,” and he didn’t want to bring unwanted publicity over a police visit to them. Skofield promised that he’d reach out to Card’s brother, Ryan, and make sure that Card’s guns were confiscated by family members.

During a follow-up visit, a second video shows an officer attempting to reach Ryan, whom Card’s father said he hadn’t spoken to in days.

“I just wanted to make sure Robert doesn’t do anything foolish at all,” the officer says.

According to the AP, “A report released last week by Sagadahoc Sheriff Joel Merry made clear that local law enforcement knew months before the attack that Card’s mental health was deteriorating.”

“Police,” the outlet states, “were aware of reports that he was paranoid, hearing voices, experiencing psychotic episodes and possibly dealing with schizophrenia.”

Auburn attorney Ben Gideon, who, along with others, represents the shooting victims’ families, called the video of the conversations “chilling.”

“[W]atching that footage,” he said, “knowing what happened approximately six weeks later, is chilling and surreal.”

“The attorneys said they are looking forward to an independent Army inspector general’s full accounting of the events leading up to the shootings,” the AP reports.

Information already gathered, including the disturbing video, is “highly concerning,” Travis Brennan, another attorney for the families, said.

“It’s one example of many system failures,” he said. “There is no question here that this is an individual who had overt warning signs.”


Melissa Fine


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