Chairman Dan Wathen, Former Chief Justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, left, and others on the Independent Commission pass a motion during the first organizational meeting of the commission investigating the facts of the October 25th tragedy in Lewiston. The public meeting was held at the Cross Building in Augusta on Monday. Also pictured with Wathen from left are Paula Silsby, Dr. Anthony Ng and Geoff Rushlau. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

AUGUSTA — The House of Representatives and Senate voted unanimously Thursday morning to grant the governor’s commission investigating the Lewiston mass shooting the power to subpoena records and testimony from reluctant witnesses.

The bill breezed through the House in a unanimous vote with no discussion and then also through the Senate. It now needs final procedural votes before being sent to Gov. Janet Mills for her signature, which is likely to happen next week.

It needed at least two-thirds support in the full Legislature for the commission to immediately issue subpoenas. Had it been approved by a simple majority, the subpoena power would not have taken effect until 90 days after the legislative session ends.

Commissioners, who began meeting in November and hope to complete their work in six months, say the bill is needed because some people and groups, including the U.S. Army, have chosen not to sit for interviews. If approved, the subpoena power would expire on July 1.

The Legislature’s Judiciary Committee unanimously recommended granting the commission subpoena power on Jan. 31.

The commission, which was appointed by Gov. Janet Mills and Attorney General Aaron Frey, is investigating the events leading up to the Oct. 25 shooting that killed 18 people and wounded 13 at a bowling alley and a bar, as well as the police response, including during a two-day manhunt for the suspect, Robert Card Jr.


Card, an Army reservist, displayed signs of declining mental health in the months leading up to the shooting, according to family and colleagues. His ex-wife had alerted police about the decline, and his fellow reservists grew concerned about his behavior during a training mission last summer in New York. He later threatened to shoot up the Army’s training facility in Saco.

Questions were raised after the shooting about why police in New York and Maine, as well as officials with the U.S. Army, didn’t do more to ensure that Card could not carry out that threat, including using existing laws that allow police to temporarily confiscate someone’s firearms if they are deemed a danger to themselves or others.

The Army is conducting its own investigation into the shooting and has not accepted an invitation to testify before the committee.

The commission has held four public meetings, and heard from Lewiston and Lisbon police on Thursday. The commission has also received public testimony from the Sagadohoc County Sheriff’s Office and from families of the victims.

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