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Accused shooter's NY mental health evaluation wouldn't trigger Maine 'yellow flag' law - Bangor Daily News

Author: Bangor Daily News

Source: https://www.bangordailynews.com/2023/10/27/politics/accused-shooters-mental-health-yellow-flag-law/

Image of Accused shooter's NY mental health evaluation wouldn't trigger Maine 'yellow flag' law - Bangor Daily News

The suspect in the Lewiston mass shootings had a mental health evaluation this past summer in New York, but that alone would not have triggered a Maine law restricting his access to guns.Maine’s “yellow flag” law, enacted in 2020, created a process by which police can temporarily confiscate guns from someone deemed to be a threat to themselves or others.The process involves police taking someone into protective custody, and then getting a medical professional and a judge to agree that the person poses a threat to either themselves or others.The question of whether Maine’s yellow flag law could have prevented Wednesday’s rampage has been raised by politicians, including U.S.Sen.Susan Collins, in the past two days.Those in charge of the response have skirted the topic, focusing on the victims and the ongoing manhunt for the suspect, 40-year-old Robert R. Card II of Bowdoin.It was unclear Friday whether police in Maine had been asked after Maine’s law went into effect in July 2020 to respond to complaints of Card being a threat to himself or others.But the New York events would never have triggered the law because the suspect was put into protective custody out of state and was evaluated out of state.Under Maine’s law, people cannot directly petition the courts in Maine to confiscate a relative’s firearms.Lack of agreement from a medical professional prevents police from taking action.If a judge grants the prohibitions, the person is banned from possessing and buying weapons for up to a year.A district attorney can request an extension for up to an additional year.Card, the suspect in the shootings that killed 18 people and wounded 13 more, spent about two weeks in July getting inpatient psychiatric treatment in New York, media outlets have reported. The Army reservist was with his unit at West Point when he began behaving erratically and was taken by New York State Police to Keller Army Community Hospital, an official told NBC News.Maine State Police issued a bulletin on Wednesday saying that Card had recently been hearing voices and making threats to “shoot up” a National Guard base in Saco, but it was unclear whether he was in New York when those concerns came to light.Card’s sister in law on Thursday told The Daily Beast that Card’s mental health seemed to deteriorate in the past year, after he began wearing hearing aids.He seemed to become more paranoid, saying that the hearing aids enabled him to hear others “bashing” him, Katie Card said.“This all just happened within the last few months,” she told The Daily Beast.Katie Card did not respond Friday to a question from the Bangor Daily News about whether thefamily knew if police had been in contact with Card since July 2020.Prior to Wednesday’s shooting, Card seems to have generated scant interest from police or the courts in Maine.He has a 2007 conviction for drunken driving and a couple of misdemeanor traffic infractions in Penobscot County from the early 2000s, when he was a student at University of Maine in Orono.The only other public court records on file from Sagadahoc County, where Card lives, were monetary claims filed against Card in 2013 and 2014, and documents related to his 2007 divorce from his ex-wife.Any additional documents in the cases could not be obtained because they are in paper files and the courts were closed Thursday and Friday under a shelter-in-place order, Barbara Cardone, a spokesperson for Maine’s judicial system, said.No federal criminal records could be found in Maine or New York, where Card was held in July for in-patient treatment.Despite this, several political figures have raised the question of whether the Maine law failed to stop the suspect from accessing a gun, including Collins, a Republican who responded to questions at a Thursday news conference by saying it looked like the law should have kicked in.“It certainly seems that on the basis of the facts that we have, that the yellow flag law should have been triggered if in fact the suspect was hospitalized for two weeks,” she said. The Maine law is more limited than “red flag” laws in other states, which allow family members and police to petition courts — without a recommendation from a medical professional — to confiscate guns from people believed to pose a danger to themselves or others.There are no federal red or yellow flag laws.A 2022 law signed by President Joe Biden included incentives for states to implement laws that allow for groups to petition for weapons to be removed from people who are a threat to themselves or other people, NPR reported.Once a person is notified by police that they are going to have to go through the process, a district attorney’s office has five days to file the motion in court, Penobscot County Assistant District Attorney Alice Clifford said.A hearing must be held within 14 days after the motion is filed, per the law.Most cases resolve through an agreement before it reaches the hearing, with a person agreeing to give up their guns for a year, Clifford said.“These things happen when there’s a pretty dire situation and they see the writing on the wall,” Clifford.

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