Gov. Janet Mills speaks to the media Friday night at Lewiston City Hall, announcing that Robert Card was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Gov. Janet Mills announced Wednesday that she is creating an independent commission to investigate the events leading up to last week’s mass shooting in Lewiston, including multiple warnings about the accused shooter and the police response to the attacks.

The Mills administration, including Public Safety Commissioner Michael Sauschuck, as well as state, local and county police are facing intense scrutiny for failing to contact gunman Robert Card, the 40-year-old Army reservist who was experiencing a mental health crisis and making threats to shoot up a base in Saco before he went on a rampage in Lewiston, killing 18 and wounding 13.

They’ve also faced tough questions about how they responded to the shooting, including waiting 12 hours to search an area around where Card’s vehicle was found abandoned and where police ultimately found his body.

“A cornerstone of the ability to heal is to know the truth – in this case, the facts of what happened on that tragic night, of the months that led up to it, and of the police response to it,” Mills said in a written statement.

“It is important to recognize that, from what we know thus far, on multiple occasions over the last 10 months, concerns about Mr. Card’s mental health and his behavior were brought to the attention of his Army National Reserve Unit, as well as law enforcement agencies here in Maine and in New York,” she continued. “This raises crucial questions about actions taken and what more could have been done to prevent this tragedy from occurring.”

Mills said she would work with Attorney General Aaron Frey to establish the commission in the coming days. She said it would likely include “independent experts with legal, investigative and mental health backgrounds who can bring to bear their experiences in determining and laying out the full and impartial facts.”


“This – the complete facts and circumstances, including any failures – must be brought to light and known by all,” Mills said. “The families of the victims, those who were injured, those who are recovering, and the people of Maine and the nation deserve nothing less.”

Mills spokesperson Ben Goodman said the governor would provide additional details at a later date, including the Legislature’s role in establishing the commission, whether it would include experts from outside Maine, to whom the commission would report, and whether the fact-finding process would be open to the public.

“The governor recognizes the importance of these questions and plans to address them when she formally unveils the commission,” Goodman said. “She does believe, however, that a public process is important.”

Sagadahoc County Sheriff Joel Merry, whose office received two warnings about Card in the months leading up to the shooting, said he “would welcome” the outside review described by the governor, saying it could identify systemic issues or possible improvements that his own internal review may not.

“To that end this is probably an appropriate response,” Merry said. “I can see why many folks would be interested in having a deep look into the circumstances leading up to and surrounding this event. I’m not bothered by that in any way.”

The Maine State Police issued a written statement supporting the investigation.


“We applaud the governor’s decision,” it said. “The Maine State Police is proud of our actions and response to the October 25th shootings in Lewiston and we welcome an independent review of not only what preceded the shootings but the police response to it. This traumatic event has impacted the entire state. It deserves a large-scale, comprehensive review and we look forward to working with the commission in the coming months.”

Lawmakers from both parties questioned whether an independent commission could be formed without legislative approval, oversight and participation.


Calls for legislative input were strongest from Republicans, who have been sidelined in talks about major bills and the budgets given that Democrats control the Blaine House and both legislative chambers.

“We need to have a truly independent review to hold accountable those who should be held accountable and make sure this isn’t more one-party rule,” Republican Senate Minority Leader Trey Stewart said. “This dynamic is frustrating, where one side doesn’t need the input at all from the other side, particularly in moments like this, because we do have ideas we can bring to the table that can be helpful, but we have been more or less excluded from that.”

A spokesperson for Senate President Troy Jackson said he looked forward to hearing details about the commission and thinks it’s important that lawmakers be able to participate.


Rep. Adam Lee, D-Auburn, criticized Mills’ decision to circumvent the Legislature in a post to X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter.

“A commission whose membership is unilaterally appointed by the chief executive is not ‘independent,’ ” Lee wrote. “Respectfully, the Governor should submit legislation to create an independent commission (see 9/11 commission), I’d be glad to work on such legislation.”

A spokesperson for House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross, D-Portland, said lawmakers would be following the commission closely, but did not comment on the lack of legislative involvement in the review process.

“The speaker and the entire Legislature will be paying close attention to this Independent Commission as they consider any policy changes in the next legislative session as a response to the tragedy that occurred in Lewiston,” Mary-Erin Casale said in a written statement.

Assistant House Minority Leader Amy Arata, R-New Gloucester, said members of her party agree with the need for an investigation.

“Republicans welcome any efforts to shed light on what failures may have contributed to the tragic events in Lewiston,” she said. “The public deserves full transparency and we welcome the opportunity to take part in any inquiry”


The announcement comes a week after Lewiston was the scene of the deadliest mass shooting in the United States this year.


Card, whom fellow reservists described as a skilled marksman, went on a shooting spree last Wednesday in two separate locations, a bowling alley and a bar. Card had personal connections to both locations and had grown paranoid that the businesses were “broadcasting” that he was a pedophile.

Card escaped, prompting a countywide lockdown and search that lasted two days.

Police ultimately found Card’s body about a mile from where they discovered his vehicle, which was abandoned at a boat launch in Lisbon. His body was recovered in a trailer parked at his former place of employment, which police had previously searched and cleared twice. He died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, police said.

The shooting came amid repeated warnings that Card was experiencing a mental health crisis and making threats to shoot up an Army Reserve base in Saco.


While on a training mission in New York in July, Card was hospitalized for two weeks because of his behavior and threatening comments. He spent two weeks being treated at the Four Winds Psychiatric Hospital in Katonah, New York.

Family members also contacted the Sagadahoc Sheriff’s Office expressing their concerns about Card.

Despite those warnings, police never invoked Maine’s yellow flag law, which allows police to confiscate someone’s weapons if they are a threat to themselves or others. Maine’s law contains additional hurdles that other states’ laws, known as red flag laws, don’t have, including requiring police to take the person into protective custody and get a mental health evaluation before seeking a court order.

Red flag laws generally allow a family member to directly petition the court for a temporary weapons restriction.

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