In Video, Maine Gunman Said Reservists Were Scared Because He Was ‘Capable’ of Doing Something

New York State police interview Army Reservist Robert Card
In this image taken from New York State Police body camera video that was obtained by WMTW-TV 8 in Portland, Maine, New York State police interview Army Reservist Robert Card, the man responsible for Maine's deadliest mass shooting, at Camp Smith in Cortlandt, New York on July 16, 2023. (WMTW-TV 8/New York State police via AP)

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — An Army reservist responsible for Maine's deadliest mass shooting told state police in New York before his hospitalization last summer that fellow soldiers were worried about him because he was “gonna friggin' do something.”

Reservist Robert Card told troopers who escorted him to a hospital in upstate New York that fellow reservists and others kept talking about him behind his back, “and it's getting old," according to police body cam video obtained by WMTW-TV and others under New York's Freedom of Information Law.

“They’re scared ’cause I’m gonna friggin’ do something. Because I am capable," Card said.

The release of the police body cam video recorded July 16 followed the release of a new detail Thursday by Maine State Police who addressed an independent commission investigating the tragedy: A review of Card’s cellphone revealed a note he had written three days before the Oct. 25 shooting in Lewiston in which he said he’d “had enough” and warned he was “trained to hurt people.”

Army spokesperson Bryce Dubee told The Associated Press on Friday it's cooperating with the independent commission and that eight of Card's fellow reservists have been authorized to testify in their personal capacity at an upcoming meeting. The Army was also conducting its own investigation.

Liz Seal, who lost her husband, Josh, in the shooting and who is now raising four children on her own, called the videos “disturbing.”

“They show there were clear warning signs that Card posed a risk to others and yet the system failed to ensure that his guns were taken away from him,” she told AP via text message.

The 40-year-old Card killed 18 people and wounded 13 at a bowling alley and a bar, leading to the largest manhunt in state history and tens of thousands of people sheltering in their homes. Card's body was found two days later. He had died by suicide.

The police body cam video provided a chilling glimpse of Card after he had been involved in an altercation and locked himself in his motel room, alarming fellow reservists from Maine. He appeared thinner than normal, his fellow reservists said.

On the body cam video, Card's fellow reservists, whose names were redacted, expressed concern that he had lost weight and was all “skin and bones.” They also said his behavior had changed markedly over six months, with a man who identified himself as Card's first sergeant telling the officers "our concern is that he’s either going to hurt himself or someone else.”

One of the reservists also described Card as a “gun nut” who spent $14,000 on a scope. The reservist added, “I don’t know what he’s capable of. I’m not insinuating anything. But I’m just saying he does have a ton of guns.”

The Ruger .308-caliber assault rifle used in the killings in Lewiston was legally purchased by Card on July 6, less than two weeks before his actions led to his two-week hospitalization, Maine state police said.

Travis Brennan, attorney for some of the victims, said the video corroborates concerns about the overall failures of the law enforcement, legal and mental health systems to take away Card’s weapons.

“His fellow members in the reserves were so concerned about his behavior and the things he was saying that they didn’t feel safe with him having guns on the military base and they didn’t want to train with him," Brennan said Friday. "But somehow the system allowed him to walk out into the community and still have access to his guns.”

An earlier report by state police indicated he had threatened fellow reservists. But New York State Police said in a statement that he was never in custody. Card was driven to Keller Army Hospital for evaluation by fellow reservists, and troopers followed the private vehicle. Card ended up spending two weeks at a psychiatric hospital.

In an email from its public information office, the New York State Police noted Card was not in police custody and declined further comment Friday, referring questions to the Army.

Police and the Army were warned Card was suffering from deteriorating mental health long before the shooting.

Family members warned police in May that the 40-year-old Card was growing paranoid and expressed concern about his access to guns before the incident unfolded while his unit was training in July in upstate New York. In August, the Army barred Card from handling weapons on duty and declared him nondeployable.

Then in September, a fellow reservist who considered Card to be his best friend provided a stark warning, telling an Army superior Card was going to “snap and do a mass shooting.”

Dressed in gym shorts and an Army T-shirt, Card told New York state police people were talking behind his back for about six months. He said people were starting rumors that he was gay and a pedophile.

Card also told troopers he was not on any prescription medication.

In Maine, a warning that Card might “shoot up” the Saco armory where his reserve unit was based prompted a Sagadahoc County deputy to try to meet with Card at his home in Bowdoin. Card did not come to the door, even though he was believed to be inside, and the deputy said he did not have legal authority to knock down the door to force an encounter to assess whether he should be taken into protective custody. That step is necessary to trigger Maine’s “yellow flag” law, which allows a judge to temporarily remove someone’s guns during a psychiatric health crisis.

The deputy said an Army official suggested letting the situation “simmer” rather than forcing a confrontation. The deputy also received assurances from Card’s family that they were removing his access to guns.

Ben Gideon, another attorney for victims, said Friday the police video demonstrates there was a “command directive” for Card to be evaluated and that made his psychiatric hospitalization “compulsory and involuntary,” and that he should not have had access to weapons under federal law, regardless of New York's red flag law and Maine's yellow flag law.

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