The story of deranged Army reservist Robert Card in Lewiston, Maine is officially closed out at this point. No other suspects have been identified and Card’s body has been examined by a coroner who verified his identity and an approximate time of death. The Maine Medical Examiner’s office released the report on Friday, having determined that Card almost certainly remained alive throughout the majority of the two-day manhunt while area residents were kept on lockdown. They believe that Card took his own life eight to twelve hours before his body was discovered. What he was doing during the two days prior to that remains a mystery, though rumors have been circulating. (AP)
The Army reservist who opened fire inside at a bowling alley and a bar in Lewiston, Maine, before disappearing was alive and possibly on the run during a good portion of the massive search that followed, according to a conclusion from the state medical examiner’s office released Friday.
Robert Card died from a self-inflicted gunshot that “likely” happened eight to 12 hours before the discovery of his body, based on a time-of-death analysis, officials said. The conclusion was announced a week after his body was discovered in the back of a tractor-trailer on the property of his former employer at a recycling center.
In the wake of the Oct. 25 shootings, which killed 18 people and wounded 13 more, tens of thousands of area residents sheltered at home behind locked doors as hundreds of law enforcement officers scoured the area looking for Card. He fled in a vehicle that was later found abandoned on a waterfront in a nearby town.
Authorities are still trying to piece together the full timeline of events between the last of the shootings and the discovery of Card’s body. During that period, the entire area was described by reporters as looking like a “ghost town” because everyone was under shelter-in-place orders unless they were directly involved in the search. Despite numerous people calling into the tip line they established, officials can really only point to two definitive locations for Card during the period in question.
One of those was the boat ramp where Card’s vehicle was located. This led investigators to initially believe that he might have fled in a boat or on a jet ski. But that river has closely spaced dams that make rapid travel by water over long distances almost impossible. They are also still uncertain precisely when he abandoned the car. The second location is the trailer outside the recycling facility where he had previously worked. That’s where the body was discovered.
So what was Robert Card doing during the intervening time? With no witnesses coming forward (at least none that we’re being told about or who have talked to reporters), we may never know. There seem to be two schools of thought regarding that question thus far. One holds that Card was using his survivalist skills to lay low in the woods, watching to see if authorities had traced his movements. Given how much planning went into the attacks, he probably had some food and other resources stashed somewhere.
The other theory is one that I heard being discussed during a NewsNation interview with two former FBI agents who have experience in tracking serial killers. They pointed out that Card definitely experienced episodes where he became deranged and experienced psychotic breaks, but he also experienced long periods where was relatively “normal” (at least on the surface) and could function in the real world. They proposed that he may have traveled immediately to the trailer near his old employer’s operation and taken time to realize what it was that he had done. At that point, realizing there wouldn’t be any opportunity to get away with it over the long run, he may have become despondent and finally took his own life.
That idea makes sense to me, though there might be one missing element. It doesn’t seem likely that Card chose that trailer randomly. We were told that he had been upset over having been fired from his previous job. Doesn’t it seem at least possible that he had been planning one more round of shooting at the recycling plant in an effort to get some revenge on his old employer? But arriving there, he would quickly realize that the place had been put on lockdown and there would be no available targets. Then he might have made his terminal decision.
None of this speculation is intended to paint Robert Card in any sort of sympathetic light. He was clearly a violent madman who did terrible things. But it may be helpful to law enforcement in the future if they can fully grasp what was going through his mind, all of the steps that he went through, and how something similar might be prevented in the future. There is little to be thankful for in this story beyond the fact that Card didn’t force an armed showdown with officials, potentially taking even more lives with him on his way out.
Here’s that interview by Chris Cuomo (I know…) with the FBI agents that I mentioned above. It’s less than five minutes and I found it interesting.