On Wednesday, October 25, 2023, a 40-year-old unemployed commercial driver, Army reserve Soldier, and occasional firearms instructor, eventually identified as Mr. Robert Card II, entered Sparetime Recreation (now known as Just-In-Time Recreation) in Lewiston, Maine with a scoped semi-automatic rifle and opened fire, killing seven. Approximately 12 minutes later and just 4 miles away, 911 calls soon flooded in about a second shooting, this time at Schemengees Bar & Grille. Arriving law enforcement and medical personnel discovered eight fatalities there, and three more died at an area hospital a short time later. Besides the fatalities, 13 others were injured in the two shootings, and as of November 4, 2023, several remain hospitalized with serious injuries. After a days-long manhunt consisting of federal, state, and local SWAT teams, Mr. Card was found dead in a trailer on the grounds of the Maine Recycling Corporation: the same property from which he had previously been fired, dead of an apparent suicide. This much is clear, and the healing can begin in earnest for the communities impacted by Mr. Card’s murderous spree, but many questions remain.
The Military Connection
Mr. Card was a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Army Reserve. A petroleum supply specialist by training, he had no combat deployments and had attained the rank of Sergeant First Class, earning few decorations along the way. Army personnel confirmed to CBS News, in a report aired on October 30, 2023, that Mr. Card had made threats and had been acting erratically in July 2023. The Army further directed Mr. Card’s commanders he should not be allowed to handle weapons, ammunition or participate in live fire training. Months later, the Army requested local law enforcement conduct a welfare check of Mr. Card, which was apparently attempted one time by the Sagadahoc Maine Sheriff’s Department. When they could not locate Mr. Card, Maine law enforcement issued a statewide bulletin in September 2023 warning about him, but this was never received by the FBI, according to a statement they released to CBS News.
According to a report from CNN and Everytown, Mr. Card purchased a Sturm, Ruger and Co. Inc. model SFAR-10 rifle chambered in .308 caliber in July 2023, just ten days before he was given a command referral for mental health treatment. A large electro-optical sight is visible in photographs released by Maine law enforcement in the hours following the shootings, with subsequent reports indicating the optic could have been a thermal imager. A tactical light is visible on the right side forend of the rifle, and although released photos are blurry, the weapon appears to have dual 25-round magazines joined together, readily available from third-party vendors, although Ruger generally sells the rifle with 20-round magazines.
Mr. Card’s white Subaru Outback was found abandoned near the Androscoggin River, and law enforcement acknowledged one firearm was found inside: the Ruger SFAR rifle suspected of being used in the spree of killings. Law enforcement also disclosed two additional firearms were located in the trailer where Mr. Card apparently committed suicide. According to unnamed law enforcement sources who provided information to CNN, Mr. Card purchased a Beretta model 92FS pistol chambered in 9mm parabellum at the same time he purchased the Ruger SFAR rifle. Interestingly, a local gun store in Auburn, Maine, stated Mr. Card attempted to buy a suppressor, but the paperwork was not forwarded to ATF because Mr. Card checked a box on the ATF Form 4473 firearms transaction record in the affirmative when asked, “have you ever been adjudicated as a mental defective or have you ever been committed to a mental institution”? Upon seeing this, the gun store advised Mr. Card the transaction could not proceed. According to a New York Times investigation, Mr. Card’s family was so concerned about his mental health deterioration that they took some 10-15 firearms from him and were storing them at his brother’s house, but shortly before the shootings, Mr. Card went to his brother’s house and took the guns back. As of the date of this article, neither ATF nor any other law enforcement agency has released the total number of firearms found in the case, either at the searched locations or on Mr. Card’s person.
Yellow Flag, Red Flag
There is a significant and growing body of evidence Mr. Card was experiencing a prolonged and well-known mental health crisis, and this manifested itself in various aspects of his life. In mid-July 2023, New York State Police were called to Camp Smith in Cortland, New York, where Mr. Card was assigned while undergoing training at the nearby U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York. While at training, he was detained and then hospitalized for being belligerent and possibly drunk, according to media reports. In late July 2023, Mr. Card was treated for two weeks at Keller Army Community Hospital after he was given a command referral following alleged threats against soldiers at Camp Smith. Mr. Card purportedly also told his commanders he was “hearing voices” and had thoughts about “hurting other soldiers.” Whether this treatment was involuntary or voluntary is highly relevant to any firearms purchases Mr. Card may have made post-treatment, although, by this time, he had already purchased the eventual murder weapon. According to the aforementioned New York Times article, Mr. Card was documented telling his fellow soldiers that he blamed his command staff for being committed and that they were “the reason he could not buy guns anymore.” For their part, the FBI (which administers the National Instant Criminal Background Check System) has stated they have no record of Mr. Card having been prohibited from owning firearms.