Army will let members testify before Lewiston shooting commission

Army will let members testify before Lewiston shooting commission

AUGUSTA, Maine — The United States. Army has given permission to personnel to testify next month before the Lewiston mass shooting commission investigating the deadliest rampage in Maine history.

Military officials have not said who will appear before the commission during its March 7 meeting, but the panel will likely focus on members from Lewiston gunman Robert Card II’s Army Reserve unit. A third-party report released in December found the leader of the unit downplayed warnings from Card’s fellow soldiers about his erratic behavior and threats to “shoot up” a reserve center in Saco weeks before the Oct. 25 rampage at a bowling alley and bar.

Commission spokesperson Kevin Kelley confirmed Monday the Army has given the green light for members to testify. Army spokespeople have not responded to multiple requests for comment sent this month.

Several members of Card’s unit did not respond to requests for comment Monday or said they had not been invited to appear. One member, Oxford County Sheriff Christopher Wainwright, who faces a potential ouster as sheriff over allegations unrelated to the Lewiston case, said Monday that the Army Reserves “has instructed the members of my unit not to comment while there’s an active military investigation.”

The military’s permission comes as lawmakers are expected to send a bill to Gov. Janet Mills  this week giving the commission subpoena power, allowing it to force witnesses to testify. Anne Jordan, the panel’s executive director, previously said commissioners had encountered unnamed witnesses who refused to testify or were instructed by superiors to not testify.

Family and peers of Card, 40, of Bowdoin, had warned police in May and September of his declining mental health, access to firearms, and threats before he killed 18 people and injured 13 in Lewiston. After a 48-hour manhunt, police found Card dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in a trailer by a Lisbon recycling center where he once worked.

Sagadahoc County sheriff’s deputies told the commission they had taken reports from Card’s family and reserve peers on his concerning behavior, including that he was hearing voices calling him a pedophile and had been hospitalized for psychiatric treatment while training in New York over the summer. A September welfare check ended when Card did not answer the door.

A third-party report commissioned by the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office found the sheriff’s office acted appropriately in responding to concerns about Card and said deputies can not have been expected to invoke Maine’s “yellow flag” law to confiscate Card’s guns.

The same report found Army Reserve leaders dismissed concerns that Card might commit a mass shooting as “over the top.” Card’s commander reportedly asked local police to conduct a wellness check and then never verified whether Card’s family took away his personal weapons.

The March 7 meeting featuring Army personnel is currently the final scheduled time for the commission to publicly meet. It will hear Thursday from Maine State Police officials after previously hearing from Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office personnel, family members of the victims and local police from Lewiston and Lisbon.

Commission chair Daniel Wathen, a retired chief justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, has said the goal is to produce a final report by late May.

BDN writers Sawyer Loftus and Michael Shepherd contributed to this report.

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