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Mental health ‘clearly’ a factor in Maine mass shootings, official says

Click to play video: 'Maine shootings: Public safety commissioner says mental health ‘clearly’ component of attacks'
Maine shootings: Public safety commissioner says mental health ‘clearly’ component of attacks
WATCH: Maine Public Safety Commissioner Mike Sauschuck said on Saturday that there was “clearly” a mental health component to the Wednesday Lewiston shootings that left at least 18 people dead, after state officials confirmed on Friday night that the suspect Robert Card had been found dead – Oct 28, 2023

Officials say Robert Card, who was found dead Friday after being suspected of killing eight people and wounding 13 others in two separate shootings in Maine, was likely experiencing a mental health crisis and did not expect to be found alive following his rampage.

In a press conference Saturday, Maine Department of Public Safety Commissioner Mike Sauschuck said there were still questions around the motive of Card’s Lewiston shootings.

“Clearly, there’s a mental health component to this,” Sauschuck said.

“There’s a piece of that where there’s paranoia, there is some conspiracy theorists piece that, I think that what I’ve read and what I’ve seen is that the individual felt like people were talking about him.”

The discovery of Card’s body Friday brought an end to an extensive manhunt just over 48 hours after it began. Hundreds of officers had been combing Lewiston and the surrounding area, which lies three-and-a-half hours from the Canadian border, putting residents on lockdown and on edge.

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Authorities had scoured the woods and hundreds of acres of family-owned property, sent dive teams with sonar to the bottom of a river and scrutinized a note in Card’s residence, which included a passcode to his phone and bank information.

Sauschuck addressed the note Saturday, saying he wouldn’t describe it “as an explicit suicide note, but the tone and tenor was that the individual was not going to be around and wanted to make sure that this loved one had access to his phone and whatever was in his phone.”

He added: “Just because there appears to be a mental health nexus to this scenario, the vast, vast, vast majority of people… with a mental health diagnosis will never hurt anybody.”

An image of a recycling facility where law enforcement found the body of Robert Card, the suspect in this week’s mass shootings, is displayed as Maine Commissioner of Public Safety Mike Sauschuck speaks during a news conference in Lewiston, Maine, Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023. AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Police found Card deceased by a “self-inflicted gunshot wound” in a trailer at the Maine Recycling Corporation, he said, along with “a couple of firearms.” The recycling facility is located in Lisbon, about 12 kilometers east of Lewiston.

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A long-gun style firearm was also found in a white Subaru station wagon linked to Card.

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Sauschuck said Card had some sort of “employment relationship” at the recycling facility, but it’s unclear if he was employed there at the time of the shooting.

Card, 40, was a U.S. Army reservist who police said opened fire at Schemengees Bar and Grille and at Just-In-Time Recreation bowling alley in Lewiston on Wednesday night and then fled both scenes.

A bulletin sent to police across the country shortly after the attack, which was viewed by the Associated Press, said Card had been committed to a mental health facility for two weeks this past summer after “hearing voices and threats to shoot up” a military base.

Click to play video: 'Maine shootings: Long-gun style firearm found in white Subaru'
Maine shootings: Long-gun style firearm found in white Subaru

Sauschuck said Saturday that he doesn’t believe the allegation that Card was “hearing voices” is accurate. However, he said officials are still working on gaining access to certain records on Card regarding his treatment and access to firearms.

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“I have not seen to this point that Mr. Card was forcibly committed for treatment. And if that didn’t happen… you can go into a firearms dealer who does all of their work, and the background check is not going to ping that this individual is prohibited,” he said.

Card’s firearms had been purchased legally and are now in police custody as part of the investigation, Sauschuck said. Some were obtained “very recently,” and some many years ago.

Sauschuck said he could not identify any of the victims at this point, only that there are three individuals in critical care.

A Family Assistance Centre has been set up in Lewiston for individuals present at the shooting sites as a “one stop shop,” providing mental health assistance and access to different agencies, Sauschuck said.

“I mention this setting because as these things evolve… this will slowly evolve over to a wellness and resiliency conversation for the community and victims and others,” he said.

Click to play video: 'Maine shootings: Suspect left paper note with personal information, not ‘explicit suicide note’'
Maine shootings: Suspect left paper note with personal information, not ‘explicit suicide note’

At least four of the victims were members of the deaf community, according to the Maine Education Center for the Deaf. At Friday night’s press conference, Maine Gov. Janet Mills hugged the American Sign Language interpreter standing next to the podium before beginning her remarks.

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The attacks stunned a state of only 1.3 million people that has one of the country’s lowest homicide rates: 29 killings in all of 2022. Mills said earlier Friday that many Maine residents will know someone who died.

“Like many people, I’m breathing a sigh of relief tonight knowing that Robert Card is no longer a threat to anyone,” Mills told reporters.

–with files from Global News’ Sean Boynton

Click to play video: 'Lewiston police confirm death of suspected gunman in Maine shootings after finding body'
Lewiston police confirm death of suspected gunman in Maine shootings after finding body

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