The Maine National Guard asked local police to conduct a welfare check on Card, an Army reservist, back in September after he made threats against his US army base, a law enforcement source told CNN.
The Sagadahoc County sergeant learned that a fellow guardsman had raised concerns that Card would “snap and commit a mass shooting”.
A statewide awareness alert was issued in mid-September asking every law enforcement agency in the state to watch for Card – but police were unable to locate him.
Sagadahoc County Sheriff Joel Merry said his deputy conducted a welfare check at Card’s home.
The sergeant was warned that “when [Card] answers the door at his trailer, in the past he usually does so with a handgun in hand out of view from the person outside”.
But there was no sign of the reservist at his home.
A file 6 missing person’s report was then filed by the responding officer, before the case was closed on 1 October, CNN reported.
“We couldn’t locate him,” Sheriff Merry said, adding that he couldn’t recall if there was any follow-up because “I don’t have any reports in front of me.”
Just 24 days later, police say Card opened fire on innocent victims in a bowling alley and bar in Lewiston.
The statewide alert also came months after Card was committed to a mental health facility for two weeks in July after acting erratically and “hearing voices and threats to shoot up” a military base, The Associated Press previously reported. Officials at Saturday’s press conference, however, said they hadn’t come across a record showing that Card had been forcibly committed for treatment.
The National Guard reportedly told the Sagadahoc sheriff’s office that Card had started hearing insulting voices in the spring before they worsened.
Meanwhile, a National Guard letter showed Card was commited to a mental health facility after he “had gone to a convenience store to get some beer” with other soldiers on 15 July near West Point, CNN reported.
“In the parking lot [he] accused three of them of calling him a paedophile and said he would take care of it,” a letter from the National Guard, obtained by the network, revealed.
“One of the soldiers who had been friends with [him] for a long time was there. [He] got in his face, shoved him, and told him to stop calling him a paedophile.”
The other soldiers reportedly calmed Card down before he locked himself in his motel room and would not respond. The nexy day, Card was taken to a base hospital where a psychologist determined he needed further treatment, leading to his two-week psychiatric stay.
After his release, police were asked to conduct a welfare check on Card in September after he was accused of punching a fellow soldier.
Card and the soldier were driving home from a casino when he started talking about people calling him a paedophile, the National Guard said in a statement to Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office.
“When [his friend] told him to knock it off because he was going to get into trouble talking about shooting up places and people, [he] punched him,” the statement said.
“According to [the friend], [he] said he has guns and is going to shoot up the drill center at Saco and other places … [the friend] is concerned that [he] is going to snap and commit a mass shooting.”
An Army spokesperson confirmed Card’s unit had requested a health and welfare check from the sheriff’s office.
“In September, the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s office responded to a health and welfare check requested by Sgt. 1st Class Robert Card’s unit out of an abundance of caution after the unit became concerned for his safety,” Lt Col Ruth Castro told CNN.
“The Army takes all allegations seriously. Due to an ongoing Army investigation, we cannot go into any further details.”
The public safety commissioner clarified there appeared to be a “strong mental health cloud over what happened.”
Card was accused of killing 18 people and injuring 13 others on Wednesday. Law enforcement looked for Card for days following the shooting, until they eventually found his body on Friday evening in a box trailer. He appeared to have died by suicide.
Card’s familiarity with guns as a firearms instructor in combination with potential mental health struggles — and the statewide alerts following his alleged threats — raises questions about existing gun safety laws and what else could have been done to prevent the tragedy.
Chief Clements defended his department’s response to the alert about Card, which he described as a “generic thing that came out saying, hey, you know, we’ve had some report that this guy’s made some veiled threats”.
He also added that such alerts are not uncommon, and while he said his team did their due diligence and looked for Card, they never came across him.
“Never came in contact with this guy, never received any phone calls from the reserve center saying, ‘Hey, we got somebody who was causing a problem,’” he said. “We never got anything.”
Jonathan Crisp, a former Army lawyer, told The Associated Press that when soldiers are committed involuntarily to mental health facilities, it is a “reportable” event under Army regulations, setting off a network of alerts and subsequent restrictions.
As it is supposed to work, he explained, an official notes the incident in a military database which alerts the FBI, so the agency can enter the name into a background list of people prevented from buying weapons.
“If they took him and he didn’t want to go and he refused to be admitted, it’s a slam dunk,” Mr Crisp said. “This should have been reported.”