Police and military officials were warned repeatedly about Army Reservist Robert R. Card II in the months leading up to Oct. 25, when he killed 18 people and wounded 13 others in Lewiston, Maine in the worst mass shooting in the state’s history.
Below is a timeline of detailed reports to authorities about Card’s rapidly declining mental health, from Card’s teenage son to the desperate pleas of a fellow reservist to “change the passcode to the unit gate,” and the responses to the growing evidence of Card’s instability. Despite his erratic behavior and threats of violence, law enforcement officials failed to make contact with him during two wellness checks at his home or take steps to seize his weapons, raising questions over whether such a horrific loss of life could have been averted.
The accounts come from reports released this week by law enforcement agencies.
May 3: Sagadahoc County sheriff’s deputy Chad Carleton met with Card’s teenage son and former wife at the son’s high school, where they shared concerns about Card’s mental health. Card’s son said he first noticed his father’s issues in January. His father began thinking people were saying derogatory things about him, including accusations that he was a pedophile. Card’s son said he believed his father was hearing voices.
Card’s former wife said she was “very worried” about her son spending time with his father, and that Card had recently picked up 10 to 15 guns from his brother’s home, where they had been stored. She asked that police not tell Card his family had contacted law enforcement about their concerns.
Carleton then contacted the administrator of the 3rd Battalion 304 Training Group at the Army Reserve Center in Saco, where Card was assigned, to share what his family had reported. An Army official also reported having “considerable concern” for Card, the deputy wrote in a report, saying that it “sounded like they may be aware of his recent mental health decline.”
Carleton said Card’s training supervisor, First Sergeant Kelvin Mote, “thanked me for the notification because they are scheduled for an upcoming training exercise involving crew-served weapons and grenades. First Sgt. Mote said he was going to call [Army Reserve] Captain [Jeremy] Reamer immediately and start to figure out options to get Robert help. We agreed to keep each other updated on any changes.”
Carleton also contacted Card’s brother, Ryan, who said the family had been concerned about Card since the start of the year, particularly in February after he started using a pair of hearing aids and became increasingly angry and paranoid. The deputy noted some research suggested a link between hearing loss and mental illness.
Ryan Card declined the deputy’s offer to speak with Card.
“Ryan thought the presence of a police officer may exacerbate the conversation,” the deputy wrote.
May 4: The deputy contacted Card’s former wife and said Card’s Army Reserve commanders were aware of the disquieting change in his mental health status. The former wife shared that Ryan Card and his sister Nicole had visited Card at his trailer in Bowdoin the night before.
Card answered the door with a gun “talking about people outside casing his house,” his former wife reported. But she said the conversation went “very well” and that he agreed to “see a doctor about the paranoia and voices he is hearing.” The former wife said she and Nicole Card, a nurse, would make sure Card received medical help.
On the same day, Robert’s command sergeant told the deputy that he planned to “sit down with Robert in the near future and see if they could get him to open up about what has been going on. I specifically warned about the fact Robert had allegedly answered the door with a gun” the day before, the deputy wrote.
July 15: Card and his Army Reserve unit were at Camp Smith, a training facility in Cortlandt, N.Y. During that trip, Card, who was with one of his closest friends, got into a fight with three other soldiers in a parking lot of a convenience store. He accused them of calling him a pedophile and repeatedly told them he would “take care of it.” He returned to his motel room and locked himself inside.
The next day, Card’s commanding officers and fellow soldiers got the key to his room and after speaking with him decided he needed a mental health evaluation. Card was taken to the US Military Academy at West Point hospital where he was seen by a psychologist and determined to need further treatment. He was transferred to the Four Winds Psychiatric Hospital in Katonah, N.Y., for treatment and evaluation. He spent 14 days at the facility before being released.
Mote said Card didn’t say a word to him during a four-hour hospital visit.
“He just started through me without blinking,” he recalled, adding that to his knowledge, Card did not seek further treatment since being released, Mote said.
September 15: Card’s Army Reserve commanders contacted the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Department and requested a well-being check on him. The call was made after Card punched a friend, a fellow reservist, on the way home from a casino after the friend told him to “knock it off because he was going to get into trouble talking about shooting up places and people.”
The friend quoted Card as saying that he “has guns and is going to shoot up the drill center at Saco and other places.”
The request came after one of Card’s fellow reservists sent several desperate text messages around 2 one morning to Mote, urging him to change the passcode to the unit gate, where weapons were being stored.
“Please. I believe he’s messed up in the head. And threaten the unit other and other places. I love [him] to death but i do not know how to help him and he refuses to get help or to continue help,” he wrote. “I’m afraid he’s going to [expletive] up his life from hearing things he thinks he heard.”
On Sept. 15, Mote wrote the Sagadahoc sheriff’s office about his concerns over Card, with the reservist’s text warnings attached.
A sheriff’s deputy tried to contact Card that day by visiting his trailer but no one was home.
The deputy returned the next morning. Given concerns about Card’s mental status, and the description by his commanders as a top marksman, the deputy waited for backup to arrive from the Kennebec County sheriff’s department. It took 45 minutes for backup to arrive.
“Card could be heard moving around inside the trailer but would not answer the door,” the deputy wrote in a report. “Due to being in a very disadvantageous position we decided to back away.”
There are no public reports of law enforcement ever returning to Card’s residence before the shootings.
Reamer, the reserve unit commander, told the deputy Card no longer has access to firearms through his military service. Reamer also reported that Card’s brother, prompted by the Army Reserve, had “retrieved the personal weapons belonging to Card.”
Reamer told the deputy after the second failed attempt to reach Card on Sept. 16 that Card is known to self-isolate but “after he keeps to himself for a while he will come back out.” He said the Army has been trying to get Card to retire but in a way that he would “get some mental health treatment.” Reamer told the deputy it was best to leave Card alone for the time being.
The next day, the deputy spoke with Card’s brother, who confirmed “he was able to get his brother’s guns” but that Card had access to the safe they were being held in at the family’s farm, also located in Bowdoin. Ryan Card said he and his father would move the guns and try to ensure Card didn’t have access to them or any other firearms. Ryan Card warned the deputy that “his brother answers door of his trailer usually with a handgun out of view from the person outside.”
Sagadahoc County Sheriff Joel Merry said his department had no further interaction with Card until Oct. 25, when his department joined in the massive manhunt that ended when Card’s body was found inside a shed at a Lisbon business.
Material from prior Globe stories was used in this report. Samantha J. Gross of the Globe staff contributed to this report.