Lewiston shooter's family testifies before commission investigating Maine's deadliest mass shooting

May 16—Family members of the Bowdoin man who killed 18 people last October spent several hours testifying Thursday before the commission investigating the Lewiston mass shooting. Those who spoke include Robert Card's ex-wife, Cara Lamb, sister and brother-in-law, Nicole and James Herling, and Katie Card, Robert's sister-in-law, who unexpectedly agreed to speak in the afternoon.

Live updates:

1:59 p.m. Wathen says the family has been resilient, "a strong family strengthened by tragedy," just before adjourning for the day.

1:57 p.m. Ryan Card had several conversations with Sgt. Ed Yurek, who was in Robert's Army Reserve unit, before the shooting, Katie said. "He spoke with Ryan quite a bit. He spent a lot of time on the telephone with my husband," she said.

1:56 p.m. Katie says they never knew the family was supposed to take Robert's guns when he was released from the hospital, and that they never knew Robert threatened to shoot up the Army unit in Saco until after the Lewiston shooting.

1:54 p.m. "I'm most proud to say that one of our daughters, not only does she want to go into nursing but she has a very strong call to pursue mental health ... I'm moved and I hope that good will come into the world from our family."

1:49 p.m. "We'll always blame ourselves. My husband will always blame himself, even though it shouldn't be blamed on him," Katie says.

1:47 p.m. After questions from Baeder, Katie said Skolfield had called Ryan, and then her, to ask if the guns had been removed, "I said they have not. We've tried very hard to make contact with Rob, my husband will want to speak with you."

1:44 p.m. Katie thanks the commission for encouraging the family to take the opportunity to speak and "for doing all you can to piece this all together."

1:42 p.m. "I'm here to share how deeply sorry I will always be that I didn't do more," Katie said, referencing how the family had tried to help Robert and spoke with mental health professionals on his behalf.

1:37 p.m. Nicole sits next to Katie with her arm around her as Katie thanks friends and family, her coworkers, those who provided or sent meals, and many others. "The gift of love was given when we felt that we least deserved it," Katie said through tears.

1:35 p.m. Katie Card, Robert's sister-in-law, begins speaking to the commission. She says her husband Ryan has "taken all of this very, very, as you can imagine, very very difficulty" and that's why he is not there today.

1:34 p.m. "What were we protecting? Why would we not talk about this? Why would we not share everything about this?" Cara asked as she finished her testimony.

1:30 p.m. Cara says she didn't know anything about the wellness checks and Robert's escalating behavior between May and September. But she says she wasn't surprised when she found out. "I guess that's where a lot of the guilt, or something like that, comes from. ... but I mean none of us were getting the right information," Cara says. She makes a reference to Capt. Jeremy Reamer, without naming him, about how he missed messages from the hospital in New York.

1:28 p.m. "You bear no responsibility for what happened," Baeder says to Cara, who responds by saying, "It feels like we have to because the people that are in charge..." before trailing off as she shrugged.

1:25 p.m. Commission member Dr. Debra Baeder thanks the family for coming to offer their perspective and says "everybody knows in this situation that a lot was placed, a lot of responsibility was placed in your family."

1:20 p.m. Cara talks about a yellow flag order that was issued against someone in Waldo County in March where people had alerted police that a man was acting strange and they believed he was hiding weapons. She said the sheriff's department responded and only found clothes. But those private citizens went on their own to search the area again and found a stash of loaded weapons, extra ammunition. "This person was going to do something awful in this place of peace." She said the man was then yellow-flagged and kept in custody.

1:17 p.m. Cara criticized the various law enforcement agencies and organizations who had information about Robert for five or six months, but didn't share it. "There's no good explanation for it, other than rules that don't make any sense."

1:13 p.m. "As Colby's mom, I'm furious at (Robert). But I didn't expect myself to feel sad for him," Cara says, adding that she doesn't want her son to only remember the bad things about his father.

1:11 p.m. Cara applauds the work of Dr. Ann McKee, who studied Robert's brain and found evidence of severe brain injury. "This didn't just happen overnight. It was a gradual deterioration of very important bits of his brain that affected."

1:09 p.m. Cara resumes her testimony by talking about how much information the commission already has, and how she felt it was important to speak today to provide a reference for people who are goin to be dealing with this "the next time."

12:05 a.m. The commission takes a break for lunch. Wathen says Katie Card, Robert's sister-in-law, wants to speak after lunch.

12:04 a.m. Cara tears up as she says she was left outside the Topsham Police Department on the night of the shooting, alone. "We didn't know what to do. We didn't know who to say it to. We didn't know if we were just putting too much importance on our own relationships with him by thinking we shouldn't be home. ... But all we knew to do was to just accept love and support from the friends and people that love us and were there for us in that moment, who put us somewhere safe and quiet, with no time limit, with dog food and groceries, as we sat for the next two days kind of expecting for somebody to tell us what we're supposed to be doing. They didn't."

12:00 a.m. Cara talks about how Robert's Army leaders were told in May that there was going to be a report that there was a concern for his mental wellbeing and that he was known to be armed. She questioned why they didn't talk about that in their testimony.

11:55 a.m. Skolfield is brought up again. Cara says she would tell everyone in the county not to vote for him. She says Deputy Chad Carleton was "fantastic," helped come up with creative ideas to help, and communicated with her.

11:54 a.m. Cara says she's there today because "it's the only way forward. It's the only right thing to do to share as much as we're able to with the victims and their families."

11:51 a.m. Cara says Army recruiters have been reaching out to her and to Colby, including two in the last three weeks, asking about why there's been a "lapse" in Colby's interest in serving.

11:49 a.m. "I don't want this to be about pointing fingers and blame and defending ourselves or him or all of this." She says that she met privately with the commission after Christmas, and after watching everyone else testify, including Army leaders, she doesn't want to point fingers at any of them "because I firmly believe that it's on all of us ... to make sure that the next time somebody needs to get help for someone, we do better than we did this time round."

11:46 a.m. Cara says Robert was a very private person. But he was also a good dad and a good uncle and was there for his friends.

11:45 a.m. "I keep wondering if the right thing to do would have been to say, 'Damn it all, damn everybody's feelings' and scream to the police 'What do we have to do? How much has to be said to find a way through this absolute mess that we seem to have created.'"

11:43 a.m. "It felt like I was taking him, and taking his problem, to the people that could direct us to the appropriate place. I'm not sure we have an appropriate place for those inappropriate questions. And if I can't get anything else out of this but this, that's the whole point of this, of sitting here and exposing more of ourselves. ... There's going to be a next time, in some capacity," Cara says, adding that the only response she got was "there's only so much you can do."

11:40 a.m. Cara says Robert put all of his trust in his mother, and had isolated everyone else. She said she just heard today that his mom was the one who was in charge of his care after he was released from the New York hospital, but she wasn't surprised.

11:39 a.m. Cara talks about a time when Robert met Colby in the driveway, raging about who Colby wanted to date "and being in on it." She says Colby felt threatened by his father, "and that's not a normal behavior."

11:35 a.m. Cara says she knew little about Robert's personal life — for years she didn't even know about Colby's health insurance. "I took it incredibly seriously when Colby came to me with his concerns about his dad," she says. She says Colby hadn't been living with his dad for months, that he didn't feel comfortable there. "Colby didn't tell me a lot of the things, which is not abnormal."

11:33 a.m. Cara talks about how Colby came to her in May with his concerns about his dad's behavior. She says she knew Robert wouldn't be happy if police showed up, and worried he would take it out on Colby. "That half of my son's life was his dad's time."

11:31 a.m. "Today and every day I'm just going to be here for my kid. He's lost his father. He lost his dad before Oct. 25th for sure." She says Colby isn't there because "he shouldn't have to be."

11:30 a.m. Cara says that yesterday was the 17th anniversary of her divorce. She says she had very little communication with Robert over those years. "I have known this family longer than my son's been alive. I'm incredibly grateful that this family was willing to listen to me and Colby on May 3, when we made a decision on what to do with his father."

11:29 a.m. Nicole and James are done with their testimony. Cara Lamb, Robert's ex-wife, is now preparing to speak.

11:26 a.m. Nicole says Ryan's relationship with Robert had already been strained by May when they met with him at his trailer. Robert had also gotten mad at his dad, saying he was just like the others, when they talked about the things Robert was hearing.

11:24 a.m. Nicole says she didn't know much about the family's guns or how many they had.

11:22 a.m. Dilworth asks Nicole to pinpoint the time that she began to think Robert was a danger to himself or others. Nicole says in June she thought her brother would punch somebody, but "never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined the act that he did." Later, she says, she feared he would commit suicide.

11:18 a.m. Commission member Toby Dilworth asks about Robert's behavior in the five years before the shooting. "He seemed normal to me besides the Thanksgiving," Nicole says, but adds that other family members had noticed other odd behavior. She said she only really noticed that he and Ryan had been spending less time together. "He helped me raise my two oldest children. We would spend time together doing things like building his house. ... So this is a call far from who he was. ... When it started, I don't know."

11:14 a.m. "So we really try to help him understand, without putting him under attack, that that he may have a problem. Robert just keeps saying 'I'm not (expletive) crazy. I'm not crazy. This stuff is really happening.' So that was really hard. ... I mean, this is my big brother that I'm talking to and he's sounding like himself, he's looking like himself," Nicole says.

11:10 a.m. Rushlau asks Nicole about an incident in May when she and Ryan had gone to Robert's home, when he answered the door holding a gun. Nicole says he put the gun away and had a good conversation. "We laughed, we cried." She says they didn't talk about taking his guns then. She says Ryan had reached out to people Robert thought were saying things about him, including Joey Walker, the manager at Schemengees who was killed in the shootings.

11:08 a.m. Commission member Geoffrey Rushlau asks James if he ever filed a complaint about Skolfield's behavior after the shooting. James says he has not.

11:07 a.m. Ng asks Nicole if anyone advised her about taking Robert to the hospital or calling a local mental health unit. Nicole said she had asked the 988 crisis line about "blue-papering" Robert, or involuntarily committing him, but was told she couldn't because he had not threatened anyone.

11:05 a.m. Nicole says she did not see Robert after he came home from the hospital, and he only responded to a few texts.

11:03 a.m. Nicole says her mom and Ryan had come up with a treatment plan with a psychiatrist and a counselor that Robert was going to come home and her mom would check in on him. She says the day after her mom told her Robert would be held for 30 days, Robert was released. She says no one told her anything at the time about removing Robert's guns.

11:02 a.m. Ng asks Nicole about Robert's behavior between May and July, before he went to New York. She references the bowling alley fight again, and said her mom told her that Robert had quit his job in July. When she called him about it, she says, they had a "normal conversation." She says she tried calling him at the hospital in New York and when he was released.

10:57 a.m. Nicole says Robert's hearing had been bad since 2015, but was getting progressively worse. She says she thinks he got hearing aids because he was hearing people talk about him at work, and she had tried talking to Robert about how his over-the-counter hearing aids might be affecting him. Robert had about 70% hearing loss in one ear and 50% in the other and didn't qualify for normal hearing aids through his doctor, she says.

10:53 a.m. Dr. Anthony Ng asks Nicole when she noticed "Robbie wasn't Robbie." Nicole says he was still acting like himself in May. But looking back, she remembered Robert getting in a rage at the family Thanksgiving and then he did not come to Christmas.

10:52 a.m. Nicole says she called Sean Hodgson, Robert's close friend, on June 3 after Robert had told her that he confronted a few women at the bowling alley who he thought were talking about him. She said Sean said he noticed those behaviors and people had really been saying things about him at work, but that he had it under control.

10:46 a.m. "We are doing this to our own soldiers. ... We can't let this happen anymore. It's going to be a generational trickle effect that's going to cause chaos, hate and despair in our country."

10:44 a.m. "Last year, I thought it was a brain tumor we were dealing with, that it was a health issue," Nicole says.

10:42 a.m. Nicole says she has been interviewed by Walter Reed, which has Robert's brain study records and is conducting a psychological autopsy. "They're trying to figure out and find patterns that happened with Rob that may have happened with other people."

10:41 a.m. The family is still talking with the Concussion Legacy Fund about keeping Robert's brain for research.

10:40 a.m. Nicole says that in April that someone from the VA told her not to tell Robert's chain of command that her brother had been accused of being a pedophile or being gay.

10:36 a.m. Nicole says someone from the crisis line said they would call Robert, under the guise of talking about his potential retirement, to assess how he was doing. She said there is no transcript or recording of that call. She says some people wouldn't talk to her because she was not his next of kin, "I think the story would have been different if Robbie had a wife or next of kin."

10:32 a.m. A commission member asks Nicole to talk about her efforts to get Robert help. Nicole says she called the 988 crisis line on June 2, where someone gave her a list of people to try. At that point, she said, Robert had not threatened to hurt himself or others. "It felt like every time a crisis happened it would be on the weekend and they were not open or not available." She says she called his battalion five times and left voicemails, but did not mention Robert by name.

10:31 a.m. The meeting is resuming, the commission plans to begin by asking Nicole and James questions.

10:14 a.m. Before the commission takes a 15-minute break, the chair acknowledges that the commission met with the family privately even before its first investigative hearing.

10:11 a.m. Nicole holds Robert's Army helmet and says that it was "meant to safeguard my brother's brain. ... To the Department of Defense, it failed." She calls on them to ensure safety standards for all soldiers. "I won't relent."

10:10 a.m. Nicole alludes to damage that FBI and other investigators did to their family properties in the search for Robert.

10:08 a.m. Nicole begins talking about the manhunt for Robert. She says her parents were not interviewed until Oct. 27, the day Robert's body was found, and says that her family was not offered any protection.

10:06 a.m. "Reflecting on the situation with Skolfield, I can't help but wonder if having such support available could have made a difference," Nicole says as she calls for mental health resources and crisis officers within police departments in Maine.

10:04 a.m. "Reflecting on Robbie's struggles. I wish I would have made more time just to be there. I wish I would have stopped everything and gone fishing."

10:01 a.m. "The Department of Defense's negligence regarding traumatic brain injury must be addressed and they must be held accountable for change," Nicole says. She hints that Walter Reed National Military Medical Center is doing a forensic physiological review of Robert's behavior. "It's important to acknowledge that Robbie's decline involved other factors, and I'm not here to excuse his behavior."

9:59 a.m. Nicole says Robert faced a potential exposure of around 180 shock waves per session over the last nine years he spent training cadets, but that number could be as much as a thousand. She says an Army investigator told her that if Robert had not killed 18 people, there would not be a conversation about this.

9:57 a.m. Nicole talks about the pervasiveness of brain damage found in Army service members, at the hands of their own weapons. She announces her support for the Blast Overpressure Safety Act, sponsored by Maine's Congressional delegation.

9:55 a.m. "I encourage everyone to reflect on the power of kindness. Each of us is battling battles unknown to others, and your kindness could be the spark for positive change in someone's life," Nicole says in a call to action to stop workplace harassment and bullying.

9:54 a.m. Nicole says her brother was being harassed by people who had found someone with the same name on the state's sex offender registry.

9:51 a.m. Nicole says accessing Robert's chain of command in the Army was a "significant challenge" and that, despite exhaustive searches, she couldn't find clear information on where to report her concerns. "Despite leaving numerous voicemails, none were returned. I am unsure if the VA crisis helpline is equipped to handle such data to aid families dealing with crises like ours involving their loved ones, but such support would be invaluable in our future."

9:48 a.m. "I acknowledge my responsibility as Robbie's sister. I wish I had done everything in my power to get him the help he needed. My pride prevented me from seeking help after facing rejection. ... Looking back, my biggest mistake was not insisting on help, not driving to the base or to the hospital in New York to be with him, not going to his house at 10:30 at night to support him when he texted me."

9:47 a.m. Nicole says she has testified privately before, but was inspired by the "bravery" of others to "grow through this discomfort as well." She thanks the commission for its efforts to investigate the shooting "from beginning to end." She says she does not want to reiterate her testimony about Robert's paranoia, but wants to focus on what she called systemic failures.

9:45 a.m. Nicole thanks various people involved in the aftermath, including counselors, translators, therapy dogs and those who donated to victims' funds.

9:43 a.m. Nicole begins reading her prepared statement. "If we appeared silent, it wasn't because we lacked empathy. We were in shock and disbelief, unable to comprehend that Robbie was capable of such horror."

9:41 a.m. James references a shirt he's wearing, which says, "They have fought for us, now we must fight for them." He calls for the Department of Defense to enhance the protection of soldiers. Referencing Robert's traumatic brain injuries, James says "My brother-in-law was not this man. His brain was hijacked."

9:38 a.m. "We can all point fingers at who's at fault. ... but in reality, we all could have done better. From the sheriff's office to the Army to the family. In order for us to be able to move forward, we need to know what could have been done. But in reality, just like a weed in a garden, we haven't taken care of the weed if we just rip it out," James said. "We need to get down deep, deep into the root of the weed, and remove it so it won't come back again."

9:37 a.m. James thanks the many people who showed support for the family, including an unnamed survivor who he says came and talked with Nicole.

9:35 a.m. James talks about the crisis in mental health care in Maine. He says the family has struggled to get care for months. "If it wasn't for our children's schools during this time and for the school counselors, our children probably wouldn't be doing as well as they are now."

9:30 a.m. James says a SWAT team showed up at his parents house after an accidental 911 call. He says he was frustrated by a lack of police protection and officers who said there was nothing they could do about swarms of reporters outside their homes.

9:26 a.m. James says they were never told about Robert's threats to shoot the Saco Army base.

9:25 a.m. James says the media were harassing him and his family, showing up at the Card family home in Bowdoin. When police responded, it was Sagadahoc County Deputy Aaron Skolfield who came. James says Skolfield had kept pressing Ryan Card before the shooting about whether he had taken Robert's guns. "He said he needed to get them because he wanted to finish this up just so he could be able to get on vacation."

9:16. a.m. James talks about the unorganized police response in the aftermath of the shooting and trying to get their family to a safe place.

9:14. a.m. When they saw the surveillance photo of Robert entering the bowling alley, James says he found it "strangely familiar." He shared it with his wife just as her brother Ryan called. "It was at that point we just realized who it was."

9:12. a.m. James breaks down as he talks about the night of the shooting. He and Nicole were in Lewiston for their daughter's dance class. When it got canceled, they tried to go to a McDonald's in Lisbon. "Little did we know that we just passed by where Robbie's car had been found," he says. It was just across the street from the industrial park where Robert's body was found days later.

9:10 a.m. James discusses when they found out that Robert had been taken to the Army hospital. "Hearing that he was being taken to that military hospital was sadly a huge relief for us. We thought that he would finally get the care and the help that he needed." They thought he would be held for 30 days, and had little information about his transfer to Four Winds Hospital. When they found out he was coming home, they said, they were extremely concerned.

9:09 a.m. James talks about how he and Nicole spent exhausting moments with the rest of the family, working to get information from Robert's hearing specialist and a suicide hotline and the Army. "Numerous phone calls were never returned or answered." He says Nicole thought Robert shouldn't be going to drills. "She was concerned he may hurt someone."

9:07 a.m. James Herling begins with emotional statements about the 18 victims who were killed in the Lewiston mass shooting. He said the family has the names of the 18 victims on their walls. "We will be using them as fuel to help us make this change in the nation."

9:05 a.m. Chair Dan Wathen introduces the Card family. "I want to express the commission's appreciation for the members of the Card family who are here with us today and your willingness to speak. We also want to acknowledge to you that we know it's not an easy task to be here and that the spotlight that you've been placed in is not something that you wanted. "

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It is highly unusual for family members of mass shooters to speak publicly, and the Card family has mostly avoided the spotlight since October. Their role in warning authorities about Card's failing mental health and erratic behavior has been detailed in police reports and in testimony given by police and Army officials.

Lamb, who along with her son Colby first reported concerns about Card to local police last May, told WMTW earlier this year that she believes Sagadahoc County sheriff deputies should have done more to confront him after he made threats against his Saco Army Reserve base in September. She called the department's expectation that Card's brother and father would successfully secure his weapons a "fantasy."

Members of Card's family were among the first people to identify him as the shooter in Lewiston and report him to police after his photo was circulated on the evening of Oct. 25, according to court records filed during the ensuing manhunt.

Months later, the family released Card's autopsy report, including the results of tests performed on his brain by researchers at Boston University. That analysis found that at the time of the shooting, Card was likely suffering from a traumatic brain injury consistent with exposure to many low-level blasts. During Card's annual annual trips to New York with his Army Reserve unit, he helped run grenade and firearms trainings for West Point cadets.

"We know it does not fully explain Robert's actions, nor is it an excuse for the horrific suffering he caused, but we thank Dr. McKee for helping us understand his brain damage and how it may have impacted his mental health and behavior," the family said in a statement that accompanied the report. "By releasing these findings, we hope to raise awareness of traumatic brain injury among military service members, and we encourage more research and support for military service members with traumatic brain injuries."

Questions remain about what the Army knew about Card's condition and how it attempted to follow up with him after he was released from a two-week involuntary stay in a New York psychiatric hospital in August. According to testimony given during a tense public hearing last month, Army medical officials asked Capt. Jeremy Reamer to make sure Card followed his treatment plan and submitted to a medical evaluation, but Reamer never spoke to Card.

Thursday's hearing is the 11th public meeting of the commission, which has already heard testimony from several shooting victims and families, Army officials, police and other groups. The body's final report is expected to be released later this year.

An official from the Army Reserve's psychological health program was initially slated to testify but will now speak at a later date.

This story is part of an ongoing collaboration with FRONTLINE (PBS) and Maine Public that includes an upcoming documentary. It is supported through FRONTLINE's Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

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