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Army reservist's brother-in-law describes struggle to get help before Lewiston mass shooting

The brother-in-law of the Army reservist responsible for a mass shooting in Maine has voiced the family's struggle to get him help as his mental health deteriorated.

The brother-in-law of an Army reservist responsible for killing 18 people in Maine tearfully apologized for the deadly rampage on Thursday, and described how the family’s efforts to get 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 his brother-in-law as Card’s mental health declined.

"Our family will never forget your names," Herling said, adding that pictures of the victims are on the walls of his family home.


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

Prior to Thursday, Card's family had kept a low profile, other than releasing a statement in March after disclosing an analysis of Card's brain tissue that showed evidence of traumatic brain injuries. Card had trained others in the use of hand grenades, and the Army said the analysis pointed to a need to do more to prevent blast-induced injuries.

"We want to begin by saying how deeply sorry and heartbroken we are for all the victims, survivors, and their loved ones, and to everyone in Maine and beyond who was affected and traumatized by this tragedy. We are hurting for you and with you, and it is hard to put into words how badly 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. In the aftermath, the legislature passed new gun laws for Maine, a state with a long tradition of firearms ownership. Among other things, they bolstered the state’s "yellow flag" law, criminalized the transfer of guns to prohibited people and expanded funding for mental health crisis care.

Relatives had warned police that Card had grown paranoid and that they were concerned about his access to guns. Other reservists also witnessed his mental health deterioration, to the point that he was hospitalized for two weeks during training last summer. One of the reservists, Sean Hodgson, told superiors on Sept. 15: "I believe he’s going to snap and do a mass shooting."

The commission was also scheduled to hear from an official from the Army Reserve Psychological Health Program on Thursday, but that appearance was postponed. Commission chair Daniel Wathen thanked Card's family members for testifying.

"The spotlight you've been placed in is not something you wanted," Wathen said.

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

Police testified that the family had agreed to remove Card's guns, but the commission said that leaving this to his family "was an abdication of law enforcement’s responsibility."

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