Robert F. Bukaty/AP
Sean Hodgson watched and frightened as his finest buddy of almost 20 years unraveled. His former roommate and fellow U.S. Military reservist’s anger and paranoia have been mounting, he had entry to weapons, and he refused to get assist. So Hodgson did the toughest factor of his life: He despatched a textual content about Robert Card to their Military supervisor.
“I consider he’ll snap and do a mass capturing,” he wrote on Sept. 15.
Six weeks later, Card fatally shot 18 individuals at a bowling alley and a bar in Lewiston earlier than killing himself. His physique was present in a trailer after a two-day search and regionwide lockdown.
“I wasn’t in his head. I do not know precisely what went on,” Hodgson instructed The Related Press final week in an unique interview, his first because the Oct. 25 shootings. “However I do know I used to be proper.”
The sequence of warning indicators about Card have been properly documented. In Might, kinfolk warned police that Card had grown paranoid, they usually expressed concern about his entry to weapons. In July, Card was hospitalized in a psychiatric unit for 2 weeks after shoving a fellow reservist and locking himself in a motel room. In August, the Military barred him from dealing with weapons whereas on responsibility and declared him nondeployable.
And in September, Hodgson raised probably the most obtrusive pink flag, telling authorities to vary the passcode to the gate at their Military Reserve coaching facility and arm themselves if Card confirmed up.
“Please,” he wrote. “I consider he is tousled within the head.”
However authorities declined to confront Card — the clearest instance of the missed alternatives to intervene and forestall the deadliest capturing in state historical past. That is laborious to swallow for Hodgson, who’s pushing again in opposition to an unbiased report for regulation enforcement that described him as “excessive” and “alarmist.”
“I did my job, and I went over and past it, and I actually spelled it out for them,” mentioned Hodgson, 43, referred to by solely his final title in paperwork associated to the case. “I do not know the way clear I might have gotten.”
Hodgson’s account, taken along with regulation enforcement paperwork, movies and different interviews, gives probably the most complete image so far of potential missteps main as much as the assault.
In replying to AP’s questions in regards to the investigation and Hodgson’s warning, the Military Reserve mentioned in a press release this week that nobody ought to leap to conclusions till its personal investigation and an unbiased probe by the Military inspector normal are finalized.
“Any hypothesis at this level with out having all the small print might have an effect on the end result of the investigation. Extra particulars might turn out to be out there as soon as the investigation is full,” Lt. Col. Addie Leonhardt, Military Reserve spokesperson, mentioned within the assertion. Officers would not remark additional.
Sheriff Joel Merry — of Sagadahoc County, the place Card lived — did not reply to AP’s questions on whether or not Hodgson’s warning was taken severely sufficient however urged a necessity for public coverage modifications. He beforehand mentioned his workplace has been “absolutely clear” and is cooperating with an unbiased fee appointed by the governor.
Hodgson mentioned he does not know the place the failings occurred however believes extra might have been completed to assist his buddy and forestall tragedy.
“I perceive he did a horrific factor. I do not agree with it. However I liked him,” he mentioned. ” I did not need any of this for anyone.”
An in depth and supportive friendship
For a lot of their friendship, Card was “the smart one,” Hodgson mentioned. They met in 2006 within the Military Reserve and have become particularly shut after they each divorced across the identical time.
When Hodgson was evicted from his New Hampshire residence in 2022, Card instructed him to maneuver to Maine, they usually lived collectively for a few month, he mentioned. When Card was hospitalized in New York in July, Hodgson was the one who drove him again to Maine.
By then, Hodgson mentioned, Card had begun venting to him about his perception that these round him have been accusing him of being a pedophile. Hodgson believed a few of Card’s complaints have been true — a case of mistaken identification stemming from the truth that one other Robert Card is on the state’s intercourse offender registry — and described an incident on the bowling alley when a father snatched his daughter away from Card after he provided the toddler a hi there.
“I at all times believed him. I at all times caught by him,” Hodgson mentioned. “I’m the closest one to Robert Card. In addition to his mom, he pushed everyone away.
“I used to be the final one he pushed away.”
In September, after an evening out on the Oxford On line casino, Card started “flipping out,” Hodgson mentioned — pounding the steering wheel and virtually crashing a number of occasions. After Hodgson begged him to drag over, he mentioned, Card punched him within the face.
“We have been having evening, and he simply snapped,” he mentioned.
Hodgson instructed Card to drop him off at a gasoline station close to his home.
“I like you, and I am going to at all times be right here for you it doesn’t matter what,” he mentioned he instructed his buddy as he bought out of the automobile.
Sean Hodgson through AP
Hodgson despatched his textual content two days later, telling his coaching supervisor he feared what Card may do. He did not communicate to Card after that, he mentioned, although they handed one another at work.
“It took me lots to report anyone I like,” he mentioned. “However when the hair begins standing up on the again of your neck, you need to pay attention.”
After his textual content, Hodgson mentioned, navy officers adopted up, asking whether or not Card threatened particular individuals. He instructed them he hadn’t. However they did not ask for assist in approaching Card, he mentioned, although they drove vehicles for a similar firm and he knew his buddy’s schedule and route.
“I might’ve instructed them when he was at work, when he was at dwelling, what hours he labored,” he mentioned.
Authorities briefly staked out the Military Reserve Heart and visited Card’s dwelling. They declined to confront him, fearing that may “throw a stick of dynamite on a pool of gasoline,” in line with video launched final month by the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Workplace.
Within the movies, officers downplayed Hodgson’s warning, suggesting he might need been drunk when he texted at 2:04 a.m. Chatting with police on the coaching heart, Military Reserve Capt. Jeremy Reamer describes Hodgson as “not probably the most credible of our troopers” and later tells Sagadahoc Sheriff Sgt. Aaron Skolfield his message needs to be taken “with a grain of salt.”
‘All they needed to do is pay attention’
Hodgson, who was unaware of these feedback till contacted by AP, acknowledged in a sequence of interviews that he struggles with post-traumatic stress dysfunction and alcohol habit however mentioned he wasn’t consuming that evening and was awake as a result of he works nights and was ready for his boss to name.
Hodgson additionally acknowledges that he faces two legal costs, one alleging he assaulted a girl he was courting in 2022 and one other alleging that he violated his bail situations by possessing alcohol final month. He is additionally in scorching water for wrecking a navy car final summer time, he mentioned. However he mentioned authorities ought to have taken him extra severely given his relationship with Card, his previous coaching on risk detection and mitigation, and his earlier work as a safety officer at a nuclear plant.
“That was probably the most troublesome factor I ever needed to do, was report him to command, and I did that. And for them to discredit me?” he mentioned. “It pisses me off as a result of all they needed to do is pay attention.”
In a textual content message this week, Reamer declined to touch upon questions from AP and referred them to Military Reserve public affairs officers.
Robert F. Bukaty/AP
In response to the unbiased assessment for the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Workplace, officers did not have ample grounds the day they staked out Card’s home to pressure the problem and take him into protecting custody after he refused to reply the door. That step is important to set off Maine’s “yellow flag” regulation. It permits a choose to briefly take away somebody’s weapons throughout a psychiatric well being disaster.
However Stephanie Sherman, an lawyer who’s represented a number of households of survivors of the 2022 mass capturing at an elementary college in Uvalde, Texas, mentioned police had greater than sufficient info to take to a neighborhood choose.
The movies present officers with a disturbingly informal method to the risk Card posed, Sherman mentioned. She additionally famous that Skolfield referred to the Playing cards as a “huge household on this space” and mentioned he did not wish to publicize over police radio that officers have been visiting the house.
“It was kind of balancing the security of the general public versus this household’s popularity,” she mentioned. “And that shouldn’t be an element.”
Watching the movies was gut-wrenching for Tammy Asselin, who grew to become separated from her 10-year-old daughter throughout the chaos of the bowling alley capturing. She mentioned it was the primary time she knew for certain that steps might have been taken to stop the bloodbath.
“Listening to that interplay between the navy and the sheriff, it harm me to listen to the giggle and the laughter of their voice,” Asselin mentioned, a tear operating down her cheek. “As a result of I do not assume they’d be laughing and laughing had they been those in my sneakers that day, not figuring out the place their daughter was.”
He knew it was Card and the place he would go
For weeks after sending the textual content about Card to their supervisor, Hodgson mentioned he prayed that it would not come true. However as quickly as he heard in regards to the capturing, he referred to as his sergeant.
“I do not consider in coincidences,” he mentioned he instructed him. “I do know it is Robert Card.”
Hodgson was driving to Massachusetts for work that day. He fielded telephone calls to and from a number of regulation enforcement businesses that did not appear to be speaking with each other, he mentioned.
He mentioned he instructed authorities instantly that Card possible was headed to the Maine Recycling Corp.
Card had labored there, and it wasn’t removed from the boat launch the place his automobile was discovered after the shootings. His physique would finally be discovered there, after preliminary unsuccessful searches that critics mentioned have been too cautious.
Greater than two months later, Hodgson mentioned, he hates that Card “took the straightforward approach out” and is not round to reply questions or face the implications of what he did. It isn’t the Robert Card he knew and liked for 17 years, he mentioned, and he struggles with that day by day.
Hodgson mentioned he needs individuals to know he did every little thing he might to avoid wasting lives.
“I do not know the right way to specific to individuals how a lot I liked him, how a lot I cared about him,” he mentioned. “And the way a lot I hate what he did.”