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Commission probing response to Maine mass shooting will hear from sheriff's office


AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — A commission investigating a mass shooting that killed 18 people in Maine last year is scheduled to hear Thursday from a police agency that had contact with the shooter before he committed the killings.

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills and state Attorney General Aaron Frey assembled the commission to review the events that led up to the shootings at a bowling alley and a restaurant in Lewiston on Oct. 25. Commissioners, who are holding their second meeting Thursday, are also tasked with reviewing the police response.

The meeting will be public and will allow commissioners to speak to members of the Sagadahoc County Sheriff's Department, a spokesperson for the commission said.

Lawyers for some of the victims' families have pointed to missed opportunities to prevent Army reservist Robert Card, 40, from committing the shootings and was found dead afterward from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Police videos obtained by The Associated Press and other news agencies showed that police declined to confront Card in the weeks beforehand, fearing it would worsen an already volatile situation. Card's declining mental health was known to police, Army officials and family members, according to numerous interviews.

Mills and Frey said Wednesday that they have introduced legislation to grant subpoena authority to the commission as it investigates, a power that commissioners have said they will need.

"This legislation, which comes at the request of the Independent Commission, will ensure that the commission has the tools it needs to fully and effectively discharge its critical mission of determining the facts of the tragedy in Lewiston,” Mills and Frey said in a statement.

Thursday's commission meeting is the first of four in which there will be an open forum for comments. Meetings with victims, Maine State Police and the Army are also scheduled.

The commission has said it “will conduct its work in public to the greatest extent possible and issue a formal public report detailing its findings upon the conclusion of its investigation.” Members have said they hope to produce a full report by early summer.

Police were alerted last September by Army Reserves officials about Card, who had been hospitalized in July after exhibiting erratic behavior during training. Officials warned police that he had access to weapons and had threatened to “shoot up” an Army Reserve center in Saco.

An independent report by the Sagadahoc County Sheriff's Office after the shooting found that local law enforcement knew Card's mental health was declining and that he was hearing voices and experiencing psychotic episodes. The report cleared the agency's response to concerns about Card, but several legal experts have said it revealed missed opportunities to intervene.

The commission meeting Thursday is chaired by Daniel Wathen, former chief justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. Other members include Debra Baeder, the former chief forensic psychologist for the state, and Paula Silsby, a former U.S. attorney for the District of Maine.