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Tracking the misinformation in police’s response to Maine gunman

Maine Commissioner of Public Safety Mike Sauschuck spoke during a press conference at City Hall in Lewiston, Maine.ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images

See the Globe’s complete coverage of the Maine shootings.

As law enforcement scrambled to unravel the events leading up to and following Maine’s deadliest mass shooting, they released a trickle of information that, at times, contradicted itself.

Early details published by state, federal, and military officials about Robert Card, who killed at least 18 people in a pair of shootings last week, were often vague, sometimes misleading, and, in a few cases, outright wrong.

Here’s what’s been corrected by officials or revealed in public records — and what remains unknown — about the Lewiston massacre.

What was the gunman’s role in the Army?

Card, who enlisted in the Army in 2002, remained in the Army Reserves until the shooting, where he worked as a “petroleum supply specialist.”

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A bulletin released Oct. 25 by the Maine Information and Analysis Center, a database used by law enforcement officials, identified Card as a “trained firearms instructor” in the Maine Army Reserves. But officials revoked that statement the next morning, instead stating they had “no indication” he had served in that role.

Card’s role was blurred again by documents released Monday night by the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Department, which has jurisdiction over the gunman’s Bowdoin home. The department conducted at least two welfare checks on Card, though they never directly encountered him, after Army Reserve officials tipped off the Sheriff’s Department that Card had been behaving erratically.

Incident reports from May and September both cite Card as a firearms instructor. One fellow reservist called Card “one of my senior firearms instructors,” and one officer described Card’s role as having “historically instructed soldier’s on the use of hand grenades.”

A September “attempt to locate” alert also called Card a firearms instructor.

But an Army Reserves spokesperson told the Globe Tuesday the agency had no documentation to support claims that Card had served as an instructor or received any special weapons training.

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Was the gunman involuntarily committed to a mental health facility?

Maine Commissioner of Public Safety Mike Sauschuck told reporters at a Saturday press conference that the state was “seeking records” to determine whether Card’s two-week stay in a New York mental hospital was voluntary or involuntary.

State 'seeking records' to determine if gunman was voluntarily committed to a mental health facility
The state was “seeking records” to determine whether the gunman was committed involuntarily or voluntarily to a mental hospital, officials said Saturday.

An involuntary commitment might have gotten Card placed on the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which would have rendered him ineligible to purchase or legally own guns. But an FBI spokesperson told the Globe that its system “was not provided with or in possession of any information that would have prohibited Card from a lawful firearm purchase.”

A military spokesperson told the Globe Tuesday that Card’s admission to the Keller Army Community Hospital in West Point, N.Y., was involuntary, as was his transfer to Four Winds Psychiatric Hospital in Ketonah.

What role did New York State Police play?

Army officials previously said New York State Police transported Card to Four Winds, implying — but not explicitly stating — that the reservist had been placed under the department’s authority.

In fact, Card was never taken into the department’s custody, though troopers did follow his vehicle to the hospital as a rear escort, according to the New York State Police Public Information Office. When asked for clarification, an Army Reserves spokesperson confirmed that version of events.

Was Maine law enforcement aware of the gunman’s threats before the shootings?

Sagadahoc County Sheriff Joel Merry sent out a File 6 missing person alert for Card in mid-September, he told the Globe on Saturday. That prompted questions about how much statewide law enforcement knew about Card prior to his attacks.

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File 6 report

But state and local law officials across Maine told the Globe that File 6 reports like the one Merry sent out are common and rarely trigger a response on their own. They denote a missing person, according to a rundown of classifications provided by the Maine State Police Department.

File classification numbers

Agencies can receive more than a dozen File 6 reports a day, and they tend to disregard those that do not directly relate to their jurisdiction or include specific, concerning information. It is not clear how other law enforcement agencies responded to the alert, which a Maine State Police spokesperson said had been received by every agency in the state.

Several local police officers told the Globe Merry’s File 6 report, sent Sept. 15, did not contain any information that would raise alarms.

The report, though, which was released Monday night, describes Card as “KNOWN TO BE ARMED AND DANGEROUS,” identifies him as a firearms instructor, and advises extreme caution from responding officers. It remains unclear why another, more serious, category of alert was not sent at that time.

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Daniel Kool can be reached at daniel.kool@globe.com. Follow him @dekool01.