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Maine State Police release thousands of pages of documents on Lewiston mass shooting

Police tape cordons off the road to Schemengees Bar and Grille as law enforcement officers maintain their presence in the aftermath of a mass shooting by Army reservist Robert Card in Lewiston, Maine, Oct. 27, 2023.
Matt Rourke
/
AP file
Police tape cordons off the road to Schemengees Bar and Grille as law enforcement officers maintain their presence in the aftermath of a mass shooting by Army reservist Robert Card in Lewiston, Maine, Oct. 27, 2023.
Corrected: June 10, 2024 at 6:10 PM EDT
The claim that a person went to a shooting range with Robert Card hours before he committed the mass shootings was contained in thousands of pages of documents released by Maine State Police, but was later deemed to be false.

Robert Card’s erratic behavior at a firing range on Oct. 25 was concerning enough that his friend decided to leave. A few hours later, Card carried out the deadliest mass shooting in Maine history.

The revelation is detailed in more than 3,000 pages of documents the Maine State Police released Friday afternoon from their investigation into the Lewiston mass shooting that killed 18 people and injured 13 others.

The documents describe much of what was already known about the chaos that followed immediately after the attack, when thousands of law enforcement officers from around New England flocked to Lewiston, sometimes before official orders called them there.

But some files include new details, including the contents of the note Card left behind and pieces of an interview with an unidentified source who told police that Card’s ex-girlfriend was in a bowling league at Just-In-Time Recreation and “could easily have been” at the alley at the time of the attack. Card’s ex, Johanna Carr, told the Press Herald in an interview Friday that she did notice Card acting strangely before they broke up last January, but that she doesn’t think he was seeking her out that night.

“I just wanted to play cornhole with my hot girlfriend and be left the (expletive) alone,” Card wrote in a note discovered in his home after the shooting.

For months, Card had been convinced that people were insulting him behind his back everywhere he went, even as friends and family members assured him that wasn’t true. Researchers at Boston University now say Card’s paranoia may have been linked to a traumatic brain injury.

The batch of records, by far the largest public release of material on the Lewiston shooting to date, also is striking in what it does not include. Many files that appear to detail specifics of the two-day manhunt following the attack are so heavily redacted that they provide essentially no information. A file labeled “Fire Marshals Office,” which actually contains hundreds of pages of Army records, includes discharge instructions from Card’s stay at a psychiatric hospital last summer that are almost entirely redacted.

The Portland Press Herald has spent months fighting under state public records laws for access to the documents, which the Maine State Police initially said they would release only after the commission investigating the shooting had completed its work. That commission has held more than a dozen meetings and released an interim report, but a final report is not expected until this summer.

The release does yet not include all state police investigative documents, said Paul Cavanaugh, the attorney for Maine State Police.

“There are other FOAA requests related to this response, manhunt and investigation that are not yet responded to on this webpage. We are still working on collecting, reviewing and providing those records,” Cavanaugh wrote in an email Friday afternoon. “Some of those requests are for public records we think are appropriate to post here when they are available and some of those requests are for more specific public records that we will respond to directly and not by posting on the webpage.”

‘An overall success’

An after-action report conducted by the Maine State Police tactical team reiterated many of the conclusions that police leaders shared with the commission at public hearings in February and May.

“Self-deploying” officers who showed up in Lewiston without receiving specific orders or directions created an organizational challenge and posed safety risks, the report found. It cited an instance in which a pair of 911 hangups at an address in Durham prompted a group of U.S. Marshals to breach the home without waiting for a SWAT team to arrive.

But the report stood by the decision to not deploy a K-9 unit from Card’s abandoned car immediately after police discovered the vehicle at a Lisbon boat launch late Wednesday night. A foot path connects the boat launch to Maine Recycling Corp. a mile away, where Card’s body was found two days later.

Maine State Police Sgt. Greg Roy has told the commission that a K-9 search would have been dangerous and ineffective given the specific time and setting. The report’s explanation for why a search wouldn’t have been useful is largely redacted, but it suggests that police were under-equipped for the job.

“The (redacted) that the Maine State Police Tactical Team had at this time were very outdated and none of the current equipment could be used in conjunction with (redacted),” the report reads. It goes on to say that the agency has placed an order for the upgraded gear.

The report, which includes feedback from the Pennsylvania State Police tactical team, says that police should have searched Card’s car and especially his home much faster than they did. It said that while working methodically can help police build a strong court case against a suspect, the situation in Lewiston demanded police seek out clues about Card’s potential whereabouts more quickly, the report said. Yet the Pennsylvania team concluded that the two-day search was “pretty quick” given the circumstances, and the report called the operation “an overall success.”

‘Limited info’

The rest of Friday’s release includes a mix of extremely detailed documents and files so heavily redacted they are incoherent.

One police report that appears to describe the search of Card’s home the morning after the shooting references a dog that police accidentally let loose and then had to catch after clearing the home and locating Card’s phone and an apparent suicide note inside. The handwritten note contained his phone password and instructions on how to find his account passwords.

“Love you,” the unsigned note said. “Enjoy your life.”

An inventory list from the search of Card’s home indicates that state police found a several guns and other weapons, a “night vision monocle from gun safe,” a spotting scope, various documents including medical records, and a pill bottle on the nightstand – though what was inside the bottle is redacted.

A memo from the FBI’s Crisis Division Team in Boston suggests that Card’s father provided little information when authorities interviewed him during the manhunt. “Limited info, didn’t want to talk,” the memo states. It also indicates that the FBI considered monitoring him but was “undecided.”

At a commission meeting last month, members ofCard’s family criticized police for taking two days to thoroughly search the recycling center where his body was eventually found. Card’s brother Ryan had specifically told police that he was likely in the recycling center given the building’s close proximity to his abandoned car and the fact that Card was a former employee and had left on bad terms, his brother-in-law James Herling said.

Police have said that while they recognize that the Card family actively tried to get Robert help before the shooting and have been fully cooperative since Oct. 25, they needed to treat them skeptically during the manhunt.

Friday’s release could be the first of several major moments in the Lewiston investigation this summer. An internal review of the Army’s handling of Card is expected to be released any day, which will likely be followed soon after by a separate report from the Army Inspector General. The commission has said it plans on releasing its own findings this summer.

Press Herald Staff Writer Rachel Ohm and Maine Public Reporters Steve Mistler and Susan Sharon contributed to this report. 

This story is part of an ongoing collaboration with FRONTLINE (PBS) and the Portland Press Herald that includes an upcoming documentary. It is supported through FRONTLINE’s Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

John reports on police and crime for the Portland Press Herald.