Scripps News Investigates

Maine mass shooting review finds problems with prior police response

A review found Maine law enforcement had “sufficient probable cause” to take the Lewiston mass shooter into custody before his 2023 rampage.

A memorial at the scene of a mass shooting in Lewiston, Maine
Robert F. Bukaty / AP
SMS

An independent commission reviewing the deadly October 2023 mass shooting in Lewiston, Maine said the local sheriff’s department had “sufficient probable cause” to take the shooter into custody prior to his rampage that left 18 people dead. 

“There were several opportunities that, if taken, may have changed the course of events,” the preliminary report, drafted by the Independent Commission to Investigate the Facts of the Tragedy in Lewiston, said.  

According to the Independent Commission, a group of seven experts – appointed by Maine’s governor and attorney general– was “unanimous in finding that in September 2023, the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office ... had sufficient probable cause to take Robert Card Jr. into protective custody under Maine’s Yellow Flag law and to remove his firearms and that the SCSO had probable cause to believe that Mr. Card posed a likelihood of serious harm.” 

The findings contradict a separate review previously released by the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office that found the sheriff’s office handled the situation “reasonably under the circumstances at the time.” the report said. 

Scripps News previously reported a SCSO deputy sergeant who was checking on Card’s welfare in September 2023, a month prior to the shooting, had considered utilizing the state’s Yellow Flag Law, which paves the way for someone’s guns to be removed if they are an imminent danger to themselves or others.  

However, he did not follow through with it. 

Maine deputy considered acting on yellow flag law before shootings
Maine deputy considered acting on yellow flag law before shootings

Maine deputy considered acting on yellow flag law before shootings

A deputy in Maine considered acting under the state's yellow flag law prior to the October mass shootings there, tapes obtained by Scripps News show.

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According to the Independent Commission’s initial report, the deputy sergeant, Aaron Skolfield “made only limited attempts to accomplish a face-to-face meeting with Mr. Card ... He also failed to seek assistance from prosecutors or other law enforcement agencies to determine how best to proceed.”  

The report also found Skolfield and his supervisors “failed to assign another deputy to take further action,” when Skolfield went on vacation following the welfare check in which he was unable to make contact with the eventual shooter. 

Scripps News has reached out to Skolfield and Sagadahoc County Sheriff Joel Merry for a response. 

The commission members have held seven public hearings about the mass shooting since November 2023.  

The group has also reviewed thousands of records to date, according to a spokesperson for the group, Kevin Kelley. 

Multiple people, including victims of the shooting, law enforcement, and members of the military have testified. 

“The Commission continues to investigate this matter and anticipates additional public meetings before a comprehensive final report is issued later this year,” Kelley said.