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Police to address special commission investigating response to Maine mass shooting

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — A special commission organized to investigate the response to the Lewiston, Maine, mass shooting last year is set to hear testimony from more police.

Maine Gov. Janet Mills and state Attorney General Aaron Frey assembled the commission to review the events that led up to the shootings that killed 18 people at a bowling alley and a restaurant in Lewiston on Oct. 25. The commission has heard from officers with the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office and will hear from members of the Lewiston and Lisbon police departments on Thursday.

While previous hearings have focused on encounters police had with shooter and former Army reservist Robert Card previous to the killings, Thursday’s testimony could center more on the immediate aftermath of the shootings. The Lewiston and Lisbon departments were both involved in the emergency response and subsequent manhunt that followed the shootings.

Card was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot after the two-day search, police said. Lawyers for victims have pointed to potential missed opportunities to prevent the shootings in the preceding weeks, as they had received warnings about Card’s deteriorating mental health and potential for violence.

The session with Lewiston and Lisbon police was a late addition to the panel’s schedule, officials with the independent commission said. A session with Maine State Police scheduled for next week is still on the calendar, said Kevin Kelley, a spokesperson for the commission.

“The previously scheduled meeting with officials from the Maine State Police is still scheduled for next week, Thursday, February 15,” Kelley said. “This meeting was added to the schedule.”

The commission is expected to investigate potential missed opportunities to prevent the shootings and produce a written report in the coming months. Sagadahoc Sheriff’s Office members previously told the commission that they had difficulty using the state’s yellow flag law that allows guns to be confiscated from someone in a mental health crisis.

In another session, tearful family members of people who died in the shootings called on the commission to make sure others don’t experience a similar fate. Kathleen Walker, whose husband, Jason, was killed while rushing the gunman to try to stop him, told the commission: “The system failed.”

There were numerous signs Card was unstable. He underwent a mental health evaluation last year after he began acting erratically during Army Reserve training. He had been committed to a mental health facility for two weeks and had made threats that he would “shoot up” an Army drill center in Maine. There were also reports that he was hearing voices.

The governor, a Democrat, has announced a series of proposals aimed at preventing future gun tragedies. They include boosting background checks for private sales of weapons and improving mental crisis care. The Maine Legislature’s Judiciary Committee has also signed off on a proposal to make sure survivors of violent crime get access to support services.

“I’m eager to see this funded and passed into law, so that these vital services to support victims and survivors of violence can continue,” said Democratic Sen. Anne Carney, who proposed the bill.

The independent commission also hopes to hear from Army officials at a future hearing.

Patrick Whittle, The Associated Press