Several weeks before a tragic shooting spree in Lewiston, Maine, that resulted in 18 deaths and the shooter’s own suicide, law enforcement authorities were forewarned about the potential danger posed by the suspect, a Bowdoin man. This individual, who previously served as a sergeant in the Army Reserve’s 3rd Battalion, 304th Infantry Regiment, had recently been terminated from his job at a local recycling plant. Leading up to the devastating event, he reportedly began experiencing auditory hallucinations, attributing them to his new hearing aid.
In mid-September, the Army Reserve communicated concerns to Sagadahoc County Sheriff Joel Merry about the individual’s “veiled threats.” Despite Sheriff Merry dispatching a deputy to the sergeant’s residence in Bowdoin, they were unable to locate him. Subsequently, Sheriff Merry broadened his approach, issuing a warning to all law enforcement agencies across Maine.
Shannon Moss, the Maine Department of Public Safety spokesperson, confirmed with the Boston Globe that the state’s police and every other Maine law enforcement body received Sheriff Merry’s warning. The alert, termed a File 6 “blanket alert,” advised officers to be vigilant, though it didn’t necessitate an active search for the ex-reservist. Sergeant Marc Marion from the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department highlighted the commonality of such alerts, revealing he had seen 25 similar ones in just one weekend.
Brunswick Police Chief Scott Stewart emphasized the significant volume of mental health-related calls they receive, stating that while all are taken seriously, nothing about this particular case was notably distinct from others.
The FBI, speaking to the Associated Press, clarified that they hadn’t been focusing on the suspect before the shooting, citing a lack of tips or relevant information about him. Notably, an incident in July involving the man had seemingly escaped the FBI’s attention. New York State Police responded to a call from his superior officers at West Point concerning his behavior and threats towards fellow reservists. This led to a two-week mental health evaluation at the Kelly Army Community Hospital at the U.S. Military Academy.
Michael Sauschuck, the commissioner of the Maine Department of Public Safety, reported there was no record of the alleged shooter being involuntarily committed, a scenario that would have triggered an incident report in military databases and potentially an FBI alert.
Maine’s “yellow-flag” law, designed to disarm individuals deemed a threat by a judge, seems to have been ineffective in this case. U.S. Senator Susan Collins of Maine pointed out that the suspect’s hospitalization for mental illness should have activated this law, leading to his disarmament.
Additional information emerged from Katie Card, the alleged shooter’s sister-in-law. Speaking to NBC News, she disclosed that the family had contacted both police and the Army Reserve to express concerns about his mental state, especially given his role in firearms training. She also shared that he began hearing voices, which he believed were ridiculing him, further exacerbating his paranoia.