Months before Maine mass shooting, police videos show how Army and police tried to intervene
2024/02/21

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Newly released video shows what may be the last time law enforcement officers engaged directly with Robert Card, a few months before the Army reservist carried out the worst mass shooting in Maine’s history. 

The videos from three officers’ body cameras, released by New York State Police, show the officers moving cautiously and expressing great concern for Card’s well-being. They end with Card leaving peacefully for what would become two weeks of mental health treatment. 

Yet even during the interaction in July, months before the mass shooting that left 18 dead, the videos show Card complaining bitterly about people constantly berating him.

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He warns officers he is “capable,” saying others are afraid he’ll “freaking do something.”   

Katherine Keneally, head of threat analysis and prevention at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, said the evidence leading up to Card’s shooting shows that even when people try to warn authorities about, and get help for, people who are at risk of committing a shooting, .

“What we're seeing is that — regardless of people taking the appropriate steps, contacting law enforcement, seeking mental health help for the person — they're still getting access to guns,” Keneally said. 

USA TODAY investigation:

What Robert Card body-camera video shows 

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The videos from July 2023, released Tuesday to USA TODAY, document the police response after members of Card's unit called for assistance. The Maine unit was on a training trip to Camp Smith in upstate New York when his colleagues became alarmed by Card's increasingly erratic behavior.

For nearly an hour, New York officers interview members of Card's unit, whose faces and names are redacted from the video. They speak to an Army official on speakerphone. They discuss their attempts to reach Card's relatives to better understand his condition. 

The video also shows officers considering what authority they would have under state law to compel Card to seek mental health treatment – and how direct orders from superiors in his Army unit would play out.

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They discuss the likelihood of getting help at a local hospital as well as Veterans Affairs mental health care.

In the end, officers enter a dorm hallway, knock on Card's door and speak with him for several minutes. 

Card first appears on the video shirtless with a shaved head and his black armband tattoo. He then puts on a black Army shirt, sits on his bed and chats with officers.

Card tells the officers that he has increasingly been hearing people talking about him behind his back. He says people have been accusing him of being a pedophile, but seems unable to place exactly where the claims come from.

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"It’s happening everywhere," he tells them, saying he's "hearing bits and pieces of it and it’s getting old."

Police continue to reason with him, noting that the fellow reservists in his unit don't seem to be insulting him. "I hope you understand, they’re concerned enough about your welfare that they called us," one officer says. 

“Because they’re scared," Card responds. "Cause I’m going to freaking do something, because I am capable.”

"What do you mean by that?" the officer asks. 

Card replies: "Nothing."

After treatment, more warnings, but no intervention

In the end, Card was taken to a base hospital, then transferred to a psychiatric hospital in Katonah, New York, for two weeks of treatment.

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After that, the Army took other precautions, Army spokesperson Lt. Col. Ruth Castro told USA TODAY in October. 

“The Army directed that the service member should not have a weapon, handle ammunition and not participate in live fire activity,” Castro said. “The Army also declared the service member non-deployable due to concerns over his well-being.”

Yet by the middle of September, the Army , the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office, to check on him. Sagadahoc deputies had already been in contact with members of Card’s family for months, and knew Card  to be heavily armed and possibly in a state of distress.

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The July police videos also offer something of an early concern about Card’s personal weapons cache. When police arrive at the New York Army camp and speak to Card’s fellow reservists, one can be heard telling them, “I’m his first sergeant. This guy does have $20,000-$30,000 worth of guns and rifles and stuff at home.”

By September, in a letter to the sheriff’s office, an Army Reserve commander said Card was upset at his command because the mental health commitment “was the reason he can't buy guns anymore,” and that a fellow soldier “is concerned that Card is going to snap and commit a mass shooting.

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Local deputies then approached Card at home twice but never spoke to him, according to department records. Months after Card’s shooting, in a hearing before a state commission established to review the case, Sagadahoc County Sheriff Joel Merry based on any of the reports.

Card’s reserve commander, Capt. Jeremy Reamer, also apparently advised the deputies to back down at the time, saying forcing contact might not be advantageous. 

“He thought it best to let Card have time with himself for a bit,” a police report stated. 

The department requested a “File 6” – a teletype alert to every law enforcement agency in Maine to be on the lookout for Card. That alert was lifted on Oct. 18. The sheriff’s office did not say why. 

A week later, . Police found Card’s body days later, dead of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound.  

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