Emotional witness implores politicians to drop partisanship to address shootings

Mar 4, 2024, 3:08 AM

FILE - Recent snowfall coats crosses at one of several memorials for the victims of last month's ma...

FILE - Recent snowfall coats crosses at one of several memorials for the victims of last month's mass shooting in Lewiston, Maine, Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023. An independent commission investigating the worst mass shooting in Maine's history is about to hear from more family members of the victims of the tragedy. More victims are set to speak Monday, March 4, 2024, at the hearing in Lewiston. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

(AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

LEWISTON, Maine (AP) — An emotional mother described freezing when she heard gunfire and then becoming separated from her daughter, not knowing whether she was alive, during the deadliest shooting in Maine history.

Tammy Asselin also had a message for lawmakers dealing with legislation in the aftermath, telling them to “put down your partisan lines and try to approach this like a parent would with simple common sense.”

“Enough is enough. It truly angers me to know that we are so close to preventing this but we failed,” she said.

Police were aware that the gunman, Army reservist Robert Card, was suffering from deteriorating mental health ahead of the the Oct. 25 shootings that killed 18 people in a bowling alley and a bar and restaurant in Lewiston. The commission, established by Democratic Gov. Janet Mills, is reviewing the facts surrounding shootings, including the police response.

Victims who spoke at a previous hearing held by the panel last month said authorities had a chance to remove guns from Card before the rampage and did not. Kathleen Walker, whose husband Jason was killed while rushing at Card to try to stop him, said: “The system failed, and we can’t allow this to happen again.”

Asselin was the first of additional victims to speak Monday at the hearing in Lewiston. Her 11-year-old daughter Toni joined her briefly in front of the commission members. “I thought it was important for me to provide the face of a child who was there that evening,” she told the commissioners.

The commission is expected to produce a comprehensive report about the shootings. The purpose of Monday’s meeting is “to hear from victims and others impacted by the shootings,” said Kevin Kelley, a spokesperson for the commission.

Relatives of the 40-year-old Card, of Bowdoin, warned police that he was displaying paranoid behavior and they were concerned about his access to guns. He was hospitalized for two weeks in July after he shoved a fellow reservist and locked himself in a motel room during training. Then, in September, a fellow reservist told an Army superior he was concerned Card was going to “snap and do a mass shooting.”

The commission is scheduled to hold another hearing on Thursday in Augusta to hear from members of the U.S. Army Reserves. The hearing with Army officials will be the seventh held by the commission and is the final hearing currently scheduled.

In previous hearings, law enforcement officials have defended the approach they took with Card in the months before the shootings. Members of the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office testified that the state’s yellow flag law makes it difficult to remove guns from a potentially dangerous person.

Democrats in Maine are looking to make changes to the state’s gun laws in the wake of the shootings. Mills wants to change state law to allow law enforcement to seek a protective custody warrant to take a dangerous person into custody to remove weapons.

Other Democrats in Maine have proposed a 72-hour waiting period for most gun purchases. The proposals will likely give rise to a robust debate in Maine, where gun ownership is higher than most of the Northeast.


Associated Press writer David Sharp in Portland, Maine, contributed to this report.

National News

Associated Press

3 Columbia University administrators put on leave over alleged text exchange at antisemitism panel

NEW YORK (AP) — Columbia University said it has placed three administrators on leave while it investigates allegations that they exchanged unprofessional text messages while attending a panel discussion about antisemitism on campus. The university said the administrators work for its undergraduate Columbia College, which hosted the panel discussion “Jewish Life on Campus: Past, Present […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

All involved in shooting that critically wounded Philadelphia officer are in custody, police say

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Philadelphia police say they believe they have in custody everyone involved in a shooting that critically wounded a police officer after a traffic stop. The 31-year-old officer and his partner stopped a car carrying four people shortly before 8 p.m. Saturday in the Kensington neighborhood of northeast Philadelphia, the city’s police commissioner, […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

California boy, 4, who disappeared from campground found safe after 22 hours alone in wilderness

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — A 4-year-old California boy who wandered away from a campground in the Sierra National Forest was found safe after spending 22 hours alone in the wilderness, authorities said. A search-and-rescue team of about 50 officers and volunteers set out around 11 a.m. Thursday after the child was reported missing from the […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

One man died and five others were hospitalized in downtown St. Louis shooting

ST. LOUIS (AP) — One man is dead and five others have been wounded in a downtown St. Louis shooting, police said. Police believe women were fighting in a park when men stepped in and drew firearms, according to a statement from St. Louis police. The man who died likely was in his mid-twenties and […]

5 hours ago

Associated Press

Michigan sheriff’s deputy fatally shot pursuing a stolen vehicle in Detroit

DETROIT (AP) — A Michigan county sheriff’s deputy was fatally shot while pursing a suspected stolen vehicle in Detroit, the Oakland County sheriff’s office said Sunday. Bradley J. Reckling, who was on duty in an unmarked car, was following a 2022 Chevy Equinox Saturday evening after the vehicle was reported stolen earlier in the day […]

5 hours ago

Associated Press

Authorities search in rural Colorado for suspect in shooting that left 1 dead, 2 injured

ALAMOSA, Colorado (AP) — Officers went door to door in a rural southern Colorado on Sunday as aircraft searched from overhead for a man suspected of shooting three people, killing one, and then fleeing on foot into farmland after a failed carjacking. Suspect Henry Corral, 44, should be considered armed and dangerous, said police in […]

5 hours ago

Emotional witness implores politicians to drop partisanship to address shootings