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Maine gunman disclosed he had mental health issues, gun shop owner says

Law enforcement personnel on Sunday stand outside of Schemengees Bar, where one of two mass shootings took place in Lewiston, Maine.  (Joe Raedle)
By Chelsia Rose Marcius New York Times

Nearly three months before Robert R. Card II fatally shot 18 people in Lewiston, Maine, a gun shop declined to give him a firearm silencer he had purchased after he disclosed on a form that he had mental health issues, the shop’s owner said in an interview Sunday.

Card, 40, went to pick up a silencer on Aug. 5 from Coastal Defense Firearms in the neighboring town of Auburn, said Rick LaChapelle, the gun shop owner. LaChapelle said Card had bought the silencer – a device that quiets gun shots – from another store, and that store sent it to Coastal Defense Firearms for pickup.

The purchase attempt is one of the first indications that Card acknowledged having mental health issues. ABC News first reported on the purchase attempt.

Questions over Card’s mental health and his access to firearms have been central to the investigation into the mass shooting, during which Card killed 18 people and injured 13 others at a bowling alley and a bar.

During a recent visit to a National Guard training facility outside Peekskill, New York, Card, an Army reservist, had a run-in with officials and was later evaluated at a mental health facility, according to a senior law enforcement official. But the Maine commissioner of public safety said Saturday that he had no information to suggest that Card had ever been forcibly committed for mental health treatment.

When he tried to complete the purchase of the gun silencer in August, Card admitted to having mental health issues on a Form 4473, a federal document that must be filled out and signed in order to retrieve the device.

Form 4473 is used to determine whether someone can receive a firearm or firearm equipment after having made the purchase.

Officials have said that Card had legally purchased his weapons, which means he passed background checks that include evaluating whether he was mentally fit to own a firearm. It is unclear whether he had admitted to mental health issues on previous forms that are typically required at the time of purchasing the weapons.

One of the questions on the form was, “Have you ever been adjudicated as a mental defective OR have you ever been committed to a mental institution?” Card checked the box, indicating yes, according to LaChapelle, who is also a city councilor in Lewiston.

The staff at the gun shop waited until Card signed the document before declining to give him the silencer. Card, in response, “was very cordial, very polite,” LaChapelle said.

“He says, ‘Not a problem. OK, let me have my attorney look at it, and I’ll just come back and get it later on,’” he added. “Then he left the store and never came back.”

In September, Sheriff Joel Merry, of Sagadahoc County, sent an alert to all law enforcement agencies in Maine after learning that Card had made threats against the military base he was assigned to, the sheriff said in an interview Saturday. It remains unclear whether other police agencies saw the alert.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.