The commission investigating the Lewiston shootings that killed 18 people and injured 13 others in October 2023 heard from local police officers on Friday. They recounted the challenges they faced during the manhunt for the suspect, Robert Card, who was later found dead.
Officers had limited equipment and communication
One of the main issues that the officers raised was the lack of adequate equipment and communication during the search for Card. Some officers were only equipped with handguns, while others had to share rifles and bulletproof vests. They also had difficulty coordinating with other agencies and accessing information about the suspect and the victims.
Chief David St. Pierre from the Lewiston Police Department said that they had to rely on their personal cell phones and radios to communicate with each other and with other departments. He said that they did not have enough tactical gear, such as helmets, shields, and night vision devices, to safely search the areas where Card was believed to be hiding.
He also said that they did not have access to the suspect’s criminal history, mental health records, or any possible motives for the shootings. He said that they only learned about Card’s note, which indicated that he was not planning to survive, after they found his body.
Officers received overwhelming support from responding agencies
Despite the challenges, the officers also praised the overwhelming support they received from responding agencies, such as the Maine State Police, the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office, the Lisbon Police Department, and the FBI. They said that they worked together to secure the crime scenes, evacuate the residents, and track down the suspect.
Chief Ryan McGee from the Lisbon Police Department said that he was proud of the bravery and professionalism of the officers from both his department and Lewiston’s. He said that they searched the recycling facility where Card’s vehicle was found, as well as the nearby woods and river, multiple times before they discovered his body in a trailer.
He said that they wished they had a crystal ball to prevent the shootings from happening, but they did the best they could under the circumstances.
Commission seeks to improve response and prevention
The commission, which was formed by Governor Janet Mills in November 2023, is tasked with reviewing the response and prevention of mass shootings in Maine. It is composed of experts from law enforcement, mental health, education, and public safety fields.
The commission plans to hold more hearings and interviews with witnesses, survivors, and family members of the victims. It also intends to examine the state’s laws and policies on gun control, background checks, mental health, and crisis intervention.
The commission is expected to submit a report with recommendations to the governor and the legislature by June 2024.