PORTLAND, Maine — A Maine legislative committee considered an emergency request on Monday to grant powers to a panel investigating last year's Lewiston mass shooting that the state's governor said are critical to unraveling how the killings unfolded.
An independent commission is investigating the October shootings that killed 18 people in a bowling alley and a restaurant in the worst mass shooting in Maine history. Democratic Gov. Janet Mills said the panel needs subpoena power, in part to access the shooter's military records.
The Maine Legislature's Committee on Judiciary held an emergency public hearing on the request Monday. The independent commission is hoping to bring Army officials to the table to testify about shooter and former reservist Robert Card's history in March.
The judiciary committee could vote on the bill seeking subpoena power on Wednesday, a spokesperson for the committee said. Mills' proposal for subpoena power has the backing of the Democratic and Republican leaders of both houses of the Legislature.
“The victims, their families, as well as the Maine people deserve to know the details of how the system failed us on Oct. 25," said Republican Rep. Billy Bob Faulkingham, the House minority leader. “How are they going to get any answers if they don't have subpoena power.”
Shooter Robert Card committed the killings on Oct. 25 and then died by a self-inflicted gunshot wound, police said. The independent commission investigating the shootings is expected to look into potential missed opportunities to prevent the shootings.
Card spent two weeks in a psychiatric hospital in New York last summer after an altercation with other reservists. Family members also raised concerns over his behavior and deteriorating mental health state prior to the killings.
Mills and Attorney General Aaron Frey have said the subpoena power is important to “ensure that the commission has the tools it needs to fully and effectively discharge its critical mission of determining the facts of the tragedy in Lewiston.” Mills' bill states that it would also authorize the commission to request and receive records from state agencies needed to complete the mission.
Maine Policy Institute, a free-market think tank, testified against the proposal on Monday. The group said in written testimony that it felt the independent commission members “were handpicked by the chief executive and the attorney general to serve in this capacity and are beholden to nobody but the governor and attorney general.”
The independent commission took its first testimony on Jan. 25 and heard from members of the Sagadahoc County Sheriff's Office. The law enforcement officers said the state's yellow flag law that allows guns to be confiscated from someone in a mental health crisis limited them in what they could do when they received warnings about Card.