LEWISTON — The commission investigating the Lewiston mass shooting revisited the search for gunman Robert Card in a hearing Friday, pressing the Maine State Police on how and when they learned about the recycling center overflow lot where Card’s body was found two days later and why they hadn’t searched the property sooner.

During the five-hour hearing at Lewiston City Hall, state police leaders also expressed frustrations over information leaks and unidentified officers self-deploying to help with the manhunt for Card. And they acknowledged that some changes have been made to their operations in the wake of the response to Maine’s deadliest mass shooting.

The hearing was the latest in a series held by the commission, which is tasked with investigating the October mass shooting that left 18 people dead and 13 others injured.

A spokesperson for the commission said Friday that it likely will hold at least one more hearing to take testimony from an Army official. The commission’s final report is expected to be released this summer.

Maine Shooting

Maine State Police Lt. Col. Brian Scott, left, Lt. Lucas Hare, middle, and Col. William Ross right, prepare to address the commission investigating the Lewiston mass shooting on Friday. AP Photo/David Sharp



Commission members already have spent a lot of time questioning various law enforcement leaders about why the Maine Recycling Corporation facility in Lisbon was not searched sooner given that Card had worked there and it is located about a mile from where his car was found at a Lisbon boat launch. But part of Friday’s questioning focused more on the timing of when Card’s family informed police that he might be there.

“I understand in hindsight Maine Recycling should have risen in priority because we know what happened, but I have trouble understanding why it didn’t rise in priority at some time (sooner),” Daniel Wathen, chair of the commission, said in an exchange with Sgt. Chris Farley, who oversaw the criminal investigation.

Wathen asked Farley if he had received information from Card’s family after the shooting about where the gunman might be. The family appeared before the commission last week and testified that they had told officials Card might be at Maine Recycling. They also expressed frustration that police hadn’t thoroughly searched the property sooner.

Daniel Wathen, chair of the commission investigating the Lewiston mass shooting, listens Friday morning to Maine State Police Col. William Ross answer a question at Lewiston City Hall. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Farley said that on the night of the shooting the site was among a handful of locations that the gunman’s brother, Ryan Card, told police his brother might be found. Ryan Card also mentioned Gowell’s Shop n’ Save and Mixers nightclub, and the name of an ex-girlfriend whom Card might seek out, Farley said.

“He listed more than one location, and none of these are locations where he said, ‘He would go here,’ ” he said. “It was, ‘He could go here, he had issues with employers here, he had issues with employers there.’ … It was a very broad list of locations.”

Col. William Ross, chief of the Maine State Police, said information from family members is always taken seriously but also said it can be tricky to know how to use that information.


“This is nothing against the Card family – I saw them testify last week and they were very genuine, very sincere – but during that 48-hour period, as investigators, we have to be very cautious about what we’re extracting from them because, again not specific to the Card family, but with some of our experiences in the past, people can be deceitful,” Ross said. “They help the offender.”

Police prioritized finding the ex-girlfriend and making sure she was safe, Farley said. After that, Maine Recycling was “on the list” of places to search, though police were not initially aware of the overflow lot where Card’s body was eventually found inside a trailer.

Dr. Debra Baeder, a member of the commission investigating the Lewiston mass shooting, listens to Col. William Ross answer a question about state police response to the shooting. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Farley said Lisbon Police Chief Ryan McGee had called the command post on Oct. 27, two days after the shooting, to say he had spoken with the manager of the recycling facility about the overflow lot, prompting him to call and see if it had been checked.

Those testifying Friday also made several references to the medical examiner’s estimation that Card likely died only eight to 12 hours before he was found, so they don’t really know how long he was in the trailer, and whether searching the area earlier would have made a difference.


Ross also discussed leaks of information that was considered sensitive. A law enforcement bulletin about Card was leaked early on in the search and then information about a note discovered at Card’s home was put out after it was discussed in a command center briefing, Ross said.


He said the leaks could have jeopardized the investigation by providing Card, or people who could have been helping him, with information about what the police knew. But he said it would be “like finding a needle in a haystack” to try and figure out who was responsible.

“Unfortunately, there are always people who will do this regardless,” Ross said. “The pull for information from outside of this command post was enormous. We had people trying to sneak into the command post, family members being contacted by the media, and we understand why. It happens about every one of these. I think it’s incumbent upon the people running it to tighten it up and let people know ‘You’re in for it if we catch you,’ but that’s just not the focus, hunting them down.”

Maine State Police Col. William Ross holds an internal document Friday morning that was leaked to the media during the manhunt for Robert Card during Friday’s hearing at Lewiston City Hall. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

State police also talked about officers self-deploying or self-dispatching to the manhunt instead of checking in at an incident command center that had been set up.

Sgt. Greg Roy, the tactical team commander for state police, said some self-dispatched officers who could not be identified were apparently out on trails during the manhunt.

“We didn’t have any idea of who was there and there wasn’t really a process for doing that,” he said.

Ross said that in mass shooting responses, it can be helpful to have officers self-deploy or respond without any orders to do so. The officers who testified Friday stopped short of calling for policies about self-deployment, saying they wouldn’t want to deter an off-shift officer from responding if there’s an emergency. Instead, they suggested that training would be the best way to prevent confusion around self-deployment.


“I wouldn’t want to have someone sitting in a parking lot saying, ‘I’m not going to go to that active shooter,’ ” Ross said.

But he said it can become chaotic and dangerous after the initial response if people continue to not check in with command staff.

“You know there’s a command post, you know there’s a structure, and you’re operating independently, (that’s when) you’re going to get somebody hurt, you’re going to get yourself killed,” he said.


Ross told the commission that he was proud of the overall police response to the shooting, as well as the work that took place with partners at the family assistance center that was set up, which he called “one of the brighter lights of this operation.”

“This was a massive undertaking and I think the Maine law enforcement community can be proud of the work we did,” Ross said.


Friday’s hearing was the second time members of the Maine State Police have been called in to publicly testify about their actions during the search for Card.

Police said since then they have identified some areas for improvement – Roy said the agency conducted an after-action report of its tactical team and is training a new breed of dog, a bloodhound, that he hopes will help police in more difficult tracking situations.

“I don’t know if it would have made a huge difference if we had it, but I think it’s important to continue to get better and increase resources and at least have the option,” Roy said.

State police have faced criticism for waiting to use a dog to try to track Card after his car was found at the Lisbon boat launch.

Roy said the shooting also highlighted the need for police to be better able to track resources and work in the field, especially during a search.

“We’re looking at different solutions so we wouldn’t have to guess or be unsure if someone (searched) a certain area,” he said. “We would have real-time evidence of that happening. There are several systems out there, so we’re looking at what would be best for us.”

Ross said state police have not yet done an overall review of their response to the mass shooting and are awaiting the commission’s report.

Related Headlines

Comments are not available on this story.