What did police know about Robert Card and when?  

This is one of the questions that prompted Gov. Janet Mills to create the Independent Commission to Investigate the Facts of the Tragedy in Lewiston. A letter to committee members notes “multiple occasions” that warnings about Card reached authorities. 

Indeed, journalists have documented a series of missed warnings.

A Lisbon police officer walks along old railroad tracks Oct. 27 as Maine State Police search for the Lewiston mass shooter. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

In May, Card’s ex-wife and son alerted the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office. In July, while training with his Army Reserve unit at West Point, Card’s erratic behavior led to two weeks of hospitalization for mental health treatment. In August, the Army barred Card from handling guns. In September, Card’s Army Reserve Unit asked the sheriff’s office to conduct wellness check on Card. That same month, Saco police were warned that Card made “threats toward the reserve center here in Saco.” At this time, the sheriff’s office issued a “File 6” attempt-to-locate notice to notify law enforcement agencies statewide that Card was armed and making violent threats. This alert was canceled a week before his attack.

Why didn’t the police prevent the shooting?  

This question is even more urgent in the context of the recent debate on police intelligence and surveillance in Maine. For the past three years, a series of scandals – a successful whistleblower lawsuit, publication of hacked documents and a grassroots people’s audit or Shadow Report – have put an uncomfortable spotlight on the Maine Information Analysis Center, the state’s “fusion center.” In both 2021 and 2023, lawmakers considered – but did not pass – bills to shut down the Maine Information Analysis Center altogether.  


In theory, the MIAC, the interagency intelligence hub managed by the Maine State Police, is the information sharing clearinghouse for law enforcement and counterterrorism. All of the warnings about Card should have flowed to the MIAC. Yet, the MIAC only became involved after the shooting as stated in timeline released by the State Police. The Sagadahoc sheriff’s office’s “File 6” alert, moreover, did not pass through MIAC. Instead, it was circulated through the older “teletype” system.  

The MIAC’s apparent failure to collect and report the various warnings about Card is especially damning given the public claims of law enforcement about the center’s effectiveness. In debates over the closing of MIAC in 2021, the then-MIAC director cited the fusion center’s role in responding to a shooting threat to Walmart. In his answers to questions from legislators, he defined MIAC’s main priority as responding to “life safety issues, those things that may have direct impact on people’s life and safety, threat to life, crimes against persons.” In other words, precisely the type of threat that Robert Card represented. 

To observers of fusion centers and the MIAC, however, this failure is unsurprising. A similar situation happened leading up to the Boston Marathon bombing. The FBI and CIA neglected to share information about the suspects with the metro Boston fusion center. Even if they had, Boston’s spy center was reportedly too busy monitoring Occupy Boston.

Here in Maine, the whistleblower suit and hacks mean Mainers know a lot more about the MIAC than other states know about their fusion enters – and the picture isn’t pretty. The MIAC Shadow Report documents a series of problems that speak to an “unprofessional work environment that encourages incompetence and abuse.” 

While neither of the bills to close the MIAC passed, in both sessions legislators passed bills to increase the transparency of the center. In 2021, L.D. 12 required the State Police to report to the legislature. The bill had contained no specific reporting requirements and the resultant report, in the words of one legislator, met “neither the word nor the intent of the recently passed law.” In 2023, legislators passed – but have yet to fund – L.D. 1492, which would create an independent auditor under the attorney general’s office to monitor the MIAC. 

While some may be tempted to increase police funding to prevent future mass shootings, the police may have known enough to prevent the tragedy. The problem here is lack of oversight and accountability.

In the aftermath of the Lewiston tragedy, it is essential that the Legislature funds L.D. 1492. The projected cost $157,329 over the next two years – should not hard to cover given the state’s recently announced $265 million budget surplus over that same period.

Mainers need a special commission to get answers to legitimate questions about the police response to the Lewiston tragedy. Fund the MIAC auditor.

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