February 27, 2024


The video paperwork a Sept. 16 name between Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Sgt. Aaron Skolfield and Military Reserve Capt. Jeremy Reamer.

This nonetheless picture from Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Workplace exhibits sprint digital camera video from Sept. 16, 2023 as police strategy Robert Card’s father’s home. Police feared confronting the Military reservist previous to the worst mass taking pictures in state historical past would “throw a stick of dynamite on a pool of gasoline,” in accordance with footage launched by legislation enforcement. The movies had been launched to the Portland Press Herald after which despatched to The Related Press on Friday, Dec. 22. (Sagadahog County Sheriff’s workplace/Portland Press Herald by way of AP)

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Police who declined to confront an Military reservist within the weeks earlier than he killed 18 individuals in Maine’s deadliest mass taking pictures feared that doing so would “throw a stick of dynamite on a pool of gasoline,” in accordance with a video launched Friday by legislation enforcement.

The video, which was launched to the Portland Press Herald after which despatched to The Related Press, paperwork a Sept. 16 name between Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Sgt. Aaron Skolfield and Military Reserve Capt. Jeremy Reamer. Skolfield was following up with Reamer concerning the potential risk posed by Robert Card, 40, who carried out the Oct. 25 assaults at a bowling alley and a restaurant. He was discovered lifeless two days later of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Army officers alerted police in September that Card had been hospitalized in July after exhibiting erratic habits whereas coaching, that he nonetheless had entry to weapons and that he had threatened to “shoot up” an Military reserve heart in Saco, a metropolis in southern Maine. The sheriff’s division responded by briefly staking out the Saco facility and going to Card’s house in Bowdoin for what Reamer described as a “welfare test.”

“The one factor I’d ask is in case you might simply doc it,” Reamer mentioned. “Simply say, ‘He was there, he was uncooperative. However we confirmed that he was alive and respiration.’ After which we will go from there. That’s, from my finish right here, all we’re actually searching for.”

Skolfield talked about Maine’s yellow flag legislation, which can be utilized to take away weapons from probably harmful individuals, after Reamer mentioned Card had refused medical remedy after his hospitalization.

“In order that, clearly, is a hurdle we’ve got to cope with. However on the identical time, we don’t need to throw a stick of dynamite on a pool of gasoline, both — make issues worse,” he mentioned.

Reamer expressed related considerations. “I’m a cop myself,” he mentioned. “Clearly, I don’t need you guys to get harm or do something that might put you guys in a compromising place.”

Auburn Metropolis Councilor Leroy Walker Sr., whose son Joseph Walker was killed within the shootings, expressed frustration with police after seeing the video. Joseph Walker was the supervisor of Schemengees Bar & Grill, the place a part of the assault passed off.

“I wish to know what we practice these individuals to do. Is it simply to ship mail? Or cease harmless individuals which may be driving 11 miles (per hour) over the velocity restrict?” Walker mentioned in a textual content message, noting that watching the video made him “sick.”

Within the video, Skolfield referred to the Playing cards as “a giant household on this space,” and mentioned he didn’t need to publicize that police had been visiting the house. He instructed Reamer he would attain out to Card’s brother, Ryan, to make sure relations had taken Card’s weapons, and a second video exhibits an officer on the father’s house. After Card’s father mentioned he hadn’t spoken with Ryan in a number of days, the officer mentioned he would attempt once more later.

“I simply wished to verify Robert doesn’t do something silly in any respect,” he mentioned.

A report launched final week by Sagadahoc Sheriff Joel Merry made clear that native legislation enforcement knew months earlier than the assault that Card’s psychological well being was deteriorating. Police had been conscious of experiences that he was paranoid, listening to voices, experiencing psychotic episodes and probably coping with schizophrenia.

Merry and Lewiston metropolis officers declined to touch upon the discharge of the movies.

However Stephanie Sherman, an lawyer who has represented a number of households of survivors of the 2022 mass taking pictures at an elementary faculty in Uvalde, Texas, mentioned the movies present officers took a disturbingly informal strategy to the risk Card posed. Police had greater than sufficient data to take to an area choose, she mentioned.

“There was a historical past of issues inside the Military, there was a historical past of institutionalization. The police knew that this particular person was having hallucinations,” Sherman mentioned. “So there was an entire batch of issues that they rapidly might have gotten an order to confiscate the weapons, and even probably put the particular person in custody. Not felony custody, however some type of psychiatric maintain.”

Sherman mentioned, nevertheless, that police are inclined to depend on immunity, which traditionally has shielded them from legal responsibility after they keep away from taking an motion similar to inserting an individual in custody.

A former New York Police Division detective sergeant who reviewed the movies for the AP mentioned the occasions previous the taking pictures illustrate the problem in making use of Maine’s yellow flag legislation. Lax legal guidelines about eradicating weapons from harmful individuals are an issue in quite a few states, mentioned Felipe Rodriguez, an adjunct professor at John Jay Faculty of Legal Justice in New York Metropolis.

“The legal guidelines are simply too convoluted and they’re working towards one another. That’s the most important downside we’ve got,” Rodriguez mentioned.

Dan Flannery, the director of the Begun Heart for Violence Prevention Analysis and Training at Case Western Reserve College, cautioned that solely a lot a few police investigation could be gleaned from a couple of minutes of video.

“There may be at all times context, there’s the difficulty of what’s the coaching and protocol inside the division,” Flannery mentioned. “Violent habits is, sadly, probably the most troublesome issues to foretell.”

However attorneys for taking pictures victims’ households mentioned the footage helps a sample of police ignoring clear warning indicators about Card within the weeks previous to the taking pictures. One of many attorneys, Ben Gideon of Auburn, mentioned, “Watching that footage, understanding what occurred roughly six weeks later, is chilling and surreal.”

The attorneys mentioned they’re trying ahead to an unbiased Military inspector basic’s full accounting of the occasions main as much as the shootings. A number of the data they’ve gathered to this point, together with the video launched Friday, is “extremely regarding,” mentioned Travis Brennan, one other lawyer for the households.

“It’s one instance of a lot of system failures. There isn’t a query right here that that is a person who had overt warning indicators,” Brennan mentioned.

The final affected person of 13 who had been admitted to Central Maine Medical Heart after the taking pictures has been launched, hospital representatives mentioned Friday.

Along with the inspector basic’s investigation, Gov. Janet Mills appointed an unbiased fee led by a former state chief justice to evaluate all facets of the tragedy.

The actions of authorities forward of and through mass shootings have come below growing scrutiny. Final 12 months, the Air Power was ordered to pay greater than $230 million in damages to survivors and victims’ households for failing to flag a conviction that may have stored the gunman in a 2017 church taking pictures in Texas from legally shopping for the weapon he used within the assault.

After a gunman fatally shot 19 youngsters and two lecturers on the faculty in Uvalde final 12 months, state lawmakers issued a scathing report faulting legislation enforcement at each degree with failing “to prioritize saving harmless lives over their very own security.” A number of officers misplaced their jobs over the halting and haphazard response, and a state prosecutor is nonetheless contemplating whether or not to deliver felony prices.

Ramer reported from Harmony, New Hampshire. Related Press writers Lindsay Whitehurst in Washington, Nick Perry in Meredith, New Hampshire, and Jake Bleiberg in Dallas contributed.