Video recordings released by Maine’s Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office indicate at least one deputy considered utilizing the state’s yellow flag law in the weeks prior to a pair of mass shootings that killed 18 people in October 2023. The state’s yellow flag law permits police to seize a person’s firearms following a medical evaluation that determines the person is a threat to themselves or others.
According to video released by Sheriff Joel Merry to Scripps News, a deputy who was checking on Robert Card’s welfare during a September 2023 visit to Card’s home considered how the yellow flag law could be used in Card’s situation to prevent him from harming himself or others.
“There’s the yellow flag law when there’s someone who is a danger to themselves or others, there’s a process that we’re supposed to go through to seize their weapons if they are deemed a danger to themselves or others,” said Sergeant Aaron Skolfield, an SCSO deputy, during a recorded phone call with Captain Jeremy Reamer in September 2023.
Reamer was the company commander of Card’s military unit and had expressed concerns about Card’s wellbeing.
“At the same time, we don’t want to throw a stick of dynamite into a pool of gas either and make things worse,” said Skolfield, as he spoke with Reamer.
Skolfield had been parked outside of Card’s residence, attempting to have a “consensual conversation” with Card when he recorded the phone conversation with Reamer.
Card would not come to the door, however.
“He’s there. He’s alive. He won’t answer the door, and there’s no good way to approach the trailer without being in a line of sight,” said Skofield of his attempts to make contact with Card.
Skofield told Reamer he was very concerned over the reports about Card’s mental state and wanted to account for all of the weapons Card might’ve had access to through the military.
“I don’t want to be an alarmist or anything, but when I’ve got documentation that’s sent to me — they’re worried about him doing a mass shooting and he’s having hallucinations and he had been institutionalized for a couple of weeks this past summer, and he’s not showing any signs of improvement — (I’m) just trying to get some answers on your end of it here.”
Reamer said he believed Card’s weapons had been moved to a family member’s home. “Whether he has access to those ... I don’t know,” said Reamer, who told Skofield he had spoken with Card on the phone the previous day.
“He sounded angry, definitely angry at people, but made no specific threats,” said Reamer.
According to an independent review of the incident, Skolfield also had a phone conference with one of Card’s relatives, Ryan Card, who confirmed the following day that he and his father “would work
together to move Mr. Card’s firearms from a safe at the Card family farm that Mr. Card could access to another secure location.”
According to a press release issued by the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office, an independent review of how SCSO handled concerns about Card’s mental health determined that they were handled “reasonably under the circumstances at the time.”
“The review has found that responding deputies followed the law and their training with the information available at the time,” Sheriff Merry said. “We also understand that there are additional reviews underway of the mass shootings and our office will cooperate fully.” The independent review, conducted by Michael Cunniff, a former DEA special agent and attorney, resulted in a 93-page report.
“Although it appeared to Sergeant Skolfield that Mr. Card was mentally ill, there were insufficient grounds to take Mr. Card into protective custody, which, based on the facts and applicable law, was an objectively reasonable decision,” the report found.
The report also made three recommendations for improvement.
Those recommendations, according to the sheriff, are as follows:
1. Continue and enhance mental health-related training programs (including training in the mechanics of applying statutory options for handling mentally ill persons who pose a risk of self-harm or harm to others).
2. Taking full advantage of its partnership with the newly available mental health liaison resource (including the development of protocols for a multi-disciplinary approach to incidents with mental health components, especially procedures for follow-up by the mental health liaison with persons of concern regarding their mental health status and treatment initiatives).
3. In consideration of the fact that responses to mental health-related situations are resource intensive, exploring the creation of a multijurisdictional and multidisciplinary mental health response team that would be responsible for, at a minimum, oversight of responses to mental health situations and, preferably, to assist with (or to fulfill) the procedures necessary to assess the person of concern and, as appropriate, to take the person of concern into protective custody (or to follow-up if the person is in protective custody), involuntary commitment, emergency involuntary commitment, and to effectuate the protection from substantial threats provisions that would permit the confiscation of dangerous weapons from persons who pose a risk of self-harm or harm.
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