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Lewiston gunman warned New York state troopers months before rampage: 'I am capable'

New York State Police officers tried repeatedly last summer to convince Robert Card that his fellow reservists in the Army were not calling him a pedophile shortly before they escorted him to a hospital for a psychiatric evaluation.

The interaction is shown in newly released body camera video taken less than four months before Card engaged in the Lewiston mass shootings. The footage is a stark depiction of Card's paranoia and futile attempts by police and fellow reservists to get him help.

Before New York State Police knocked on Card's barracks door last July, they strategized for nearly an hour about how to get him to Keller Army Community Hospital in West Point. Their efforts are captured in more than three hours of bodycam footage obtained by a Maine Public freedom of information request.

The footage shows members of Card's Army reserve unit pleading with officers to take Card into custody after he had become aggressive and accused them of calling him a pedophile and gay the night before.

His fellow reservists were worried. Card was slated to join them on the shooting range during their annual training.

And as they were arguing the night before, Card ominously vowed "to take care of it" without explaining what he meant.

Card had an equally menacing warning during his 15-minute interaction with New York State Police.

The troopers believed they didn't have probable cause to take Card into protective custody, but they did secure an order from his commanding officer that he was to report to the Army hospital for an evaluation.

They were there to convince him to follow that order, and also to persuade him that his fellow reservists were not talking about him.

"All right, so we talked to a few of them today," one trooper said. "And they're saying nothing like that is happening. They're talking about how good of a friend they are to you, you guys have been great friends for a decade now. And they're not sure what's going on."

But Card was unconvinced. He told police that his colleagues were saying the same insults as everyone else.

"It's happening everywhere," Card says. "I'm hearing bits and pieces of all of it and it's just getting old. I confront people and it doesn't stop."

The troopers tried again to reason with him.

"I mean, does it make sense that someone you've been good friends with for over a decade would all of a sudden just start saying these things about you?" one trooper asks.

"I know, it's happening everywhere so, yeah, it's making a lot of sense," Card replied.

"What do you mean by that, it's happening everywhere?" the trooper asks.

"At work, I had to quit my job, go to a different place to try and leave it and it's there as well," Card says.

The troopers then try to convince Card that his fellow reservists were only looking out for him.

And they had to. The troopers couldn't detain him, and that meant the same reservists who had called the police also had to take him on the hourlong drive to West Point.

"I hope you understand that they are concerned enough about your welfare that they called us," a trooper tells him.

“Oh, 'cause they’re scared 'cause I’m gonna friggin' do something. Because I’m capable,” Card replied.

“What do you mean by that?” the trooper asks.

“Huh?” Card says.

“What do you mean by that?” the trooper asks again.

“Nothing," Card says.

Card reluctantly agrees to submit to an evaluation, but he tells the troopers that it won't help.

He would spend two weeks at a private psychiatric hospital, but neither that stay, nor subsequent warnings from reservists to local law enforcement, would prevent him from carrying out the worst mass shooting in Maine history.

Just three days before the massacre, Card typed a note on his cellphone acknowledging that he was having problems.

It was described Thursday by Maine State Police Sgt. Chris Farley to the commission investigating the tragedy.

"On Oct. 22, is when Robert Card writes a note on his cellphone where he's having issues … and that he's had enough and that he's trained to hurt people," Farley said.

The commission also learned that Card purchased the same high-caliber rifle he used to kill 18 people and wound 13 others shortly before his encounter with the New York troopers, part of an arsenal that one reservist estimated was worth between $20,000 and $30,000.

The commission is expected to meet again in early March.

Journalist Steve Mistler is Maine Public’s chief politics and government correspondent. He is based at the State House.