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Army Reservist’s Family Describes Struggle Getting Help Before Maine Mass Shooting

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“Our family will never forget your names,” James Herling said, adding that photos of the victims hang on the walls of the family home.

James Herling pauses his testimony.

James Herling interrupts his testimony while recalling the moment he realized the shooter was his brother-in-law, Robert Card, while testifying Thursday, May 16, 2024, in Augusta, Maine, at a hearing of the independent commission investigating the police. response to the mass shooting in Lewiston, Maine. AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — The brother-in-law of an Army reservist responsible for killing 18 people in Maine tearfully apologized for Thursday’s deadly rampage and described how the family’s efforts to getting him help were repeatedly frustrated.

Hearing public testimony from shooter Robert Card’s family for the first time, an independent commission investigating the mass shooting in Lewiston opened with James Herling. He said the family struggled for months to get help for their brother-in-law as Card’s mental health deteriorated.

“Our family will never forget your names,” Herling said, adding that photos of the victims hang on the walls of the family home.

An Army reservist with a history of mental health issues committed the deadliest shooting in Maine history, opening fire with an assault rifle at a bowling alley and bar and grill in Lewiston in october. The commission has been meeting for months to hear from police, victims and their families, as well as Army reservists who served with Card.

Before Thursday, Card’s family had kept a low profile, aside from issuing a statement in March after disclosing an analysis of Card’s brain tissue showing signs of traumatic brain injury. Card had trained others in the use of hand grenades, and the Army said the analysis underscored the need to do more to prevent injuries from the blast.

“We want to begin by saying how deeply sorry and heartbroken we are to all the victims, survivors and their loved ones, as well as to all those in Maine and beyond who have been affected and traumatized by this tragedy. We are suffering for you and with you, and it is difficult to express in words how much we wish we could undo what happened,” the family’s statement said.

Card, 40, was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound after an extensive search. Subsequently, the Legislature passed new gun laws in Maine, a state with a long tradition of gun ownership. Among other things, they strengthened the “yellow flag” law, criminalized the transfer of firearms to prohibited persons, and increased funding for crisis mental health care.

Community members watch a memorial outside Schemengees Bar & Grille.
Community members look at a memorial outside Schemengees Bar & Grille about a week after a mass shooting, November 3, 2023, in Lewiston, Maine. – AP Photo/Matt York, file

Relatives had warned police that Card had become paranoid and that they were concerned about his access to weapons. Other reserves also witnessed his mental health deteriorate, to the point where he was hospitalized for two weeks during training last summer. One of the reservists, Sean Hodgson, told his superiors on September 15, “I think he’s going to snap and do a mass shooting.” »

The committee was also scheduled to hear Thursday from a manager of the Army Reserve’s psychological health program, but that appearance was postponed. Commission Chairman Daniel Wathen thanked Card’s family members for their testimony.

“The spotlight you were put under is not something you wanted,” Wathen said.

The commission issued an interim report in March saying law enforcement should have seized Card’s weapons and taken him into protective custody based on those warnings, using the existing yellow flag law. A full report is expected this summer.

Police said the family agreed to remove Card’s guns, but the commission said leaving that decision up to his family “constituted an abdication of law enforcement responsibility.”

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