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Suspected Maine shooter tried to buy silencer months before Lewiston shooting


Nearly three months before Robert Card attacked a bar and bowling alley in rural Maine last week – killing 18 people and injuring 13 others – he tried to buy a silencer for a rifle at a local gun store, the owner said Saturday.

“He came in and filled out the form, he checked a box that incriminated him saying he was in an institution,” said Rick LaChapelle, owner of Coastal Defense Firearms. “Our staff was fantastic, let him finish filling out the form and said, ‘I’m sorry, Mr. Card, we can’t give you this…at this point, we can’t give you this silent because of the answers you gave us.

LaChapelle added “we did what we were supposed to do and hopefully saved many lives in the right way, just by following the proper procedures.”

If Card had succeeded in purchasing the silencer, LaChapelle, president of the Lewiston, Maine, town council, said he believed the rampage could have been even more deadly because people in both places would not have heard the rifle fire.

“He could have spent more time in each location,” LaChapelle said, adding that he was speaking as the business owner and not in his official capacity. “And it could have been more methodical, and my heart goes out to the people, to the victims. It’s just horrible, horrible. I’m frustrated because, I think, some of this could have been avoided.

Shortly before 7 p.m. Wednesday, police said Card entered the bowling alley just in time in Lewiston with an assault rifle and killed seven people. At 7:08 p.m., police said he entered the Schemengees Bar & Grille restaurant, 4 miles away, where he killed eight people. Three victims later succumbed to their injuries in hospital.

It was the worst mass shooting in the United States this year and one of the deadliest on record in a country besieged by an epidemic of gun violence. The shootings also sparked a massive area-wide manhunt after Card left Lewiston and drove 10 minutes to Lisbon, where he abandoned his car and disappeared. He would be found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound two days later at the Lisbon recycling plant where he worked, police said.

LaChapelle explained that Card had purchased the silencer online and was about to pick it up at the nearest dealer, Coastal Defense, one of the area’s largest gun stores, he said. he declares.

On Aug. 5, LaChapelle said Card entered the store after already completing certain federal paperwork required to purchase firearms and certain firearm accessories.

On one box on a form required to complete the transfer, which was reviewed by ABC News, Card’s response caught the attention of store staff: “Have you ever been adjudicated as mentally retarded or have you ever been interned in a psychiatric establishment? » Card marked with an X, indicating “yes”.

The employees had no way of knowing it then, but Card, according to a police bulletin reviewed by ABC News, had been “committed to a mental health facility for two weeks during the summer of 2023 and released” after reported hearing voices and making noises. threats to shoot at a National Guard base.

But with Card’s “X” there, LaChapelle said, his employees told the man they couldn’t release the silencer.

Card was “very cooperative,” according to LaChapelle, saying he would work it out with his attorney and was “confident” he could “clarify and rectify it.” The silencer was put aside. Card never returned.

LaChapelle spoke to ABC News on Saturday, repeating a story he previously shared with investigators who are now trying to piece together the details of a rampage that stunned a quiet rural part of New England.

At a briefing Saturday morning, officials again said mental health was a key part of their investigation into the shootings, in addition to Card’s gun ownership and whether his background psychiatric authorities should have prohibited him from possessing firearms.

Maine Public Safety Commissioner Mike Sauschuck said investigators saw no evidence that Card was “forcibly committed” for mental health treatment.

“If that hasn’t happened, then the next check you might do as a firearms dealer, who is doing all their work, and a background check will not confirm that this individual is prohibited” , Sauschuck said.

Known for its liberal gun laws, Maine does not regulate assault weapons and allows residents and non-residents to carry concealed firearms without a license, with few exceptions. The state has what is known as a “yellow flag” law that allows it to ban firearm possession from someone experiencing a mental health crisis, but only after a report to police, a police investigation, an examination by a doctor, then a doctor’s order. judge. Critics say the regulation is ineffective because it unduly delays keeping guns out of the hands of those struggling with a mental health crisis.

At Saturday’s briefing, an ATF official said the weapons recovered appeared to have been purchased legally by Card.

An ATF spokesperson declined to comment on Card’s previous attempt to purchase a silencer Saturday night, citing the ongoing investigation.

LaChapelle said he was “very proud of my staff, who handled this situation the right way.”

“I think it’s really a safety issue that we’ve prevented someone with a mental illness from getting it,” he said. “I live in this community, I raise my family in this community. It’s a community that I love. I don’t want something like this to happen.

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