LEWISTON, Maine — Sean Hodgson watched and worried as his best friend of nearly two decades unraveled. His former roommate and fellow U.S. Army reservist’s anger and paranoia were mounting, he had access to guns, and he refused to get help. So Hodgson did the hardest thing of his life: He sent a text about Robert Card to their Army supervisor.
“I believe he’s going to snap and do a mass shooting,” he wrote on Sept. 15.
Six weeks later, Card fatally shot 18 people at a bowling alley and a bar in Lewiston before killing himself. His body was found in a trailer after a two-day search and regionwide lockdown.
“I wasn’t in his head. I don’t know exactly what went on,” Hodgson told The Associated Press last week in an exclusive interview, his first since the Oct. 25 shootings. “But I do know I was right.”
The series of warning signs about Card have been well documented. In May, relatives warned police that Card had grown paranoid, and they expressed concern about his access to guns. In July, Card was hospitalized in a psychiatric unit for two weeks after shoving a fellow reservist and locking himself in a motel room. In August, the Army barred him from handling weapons while on duty and declared him nondeployable.
And in September, Hodgson raised the most glaring red flag, telling authorities to change the passcode to the gate at their Army Reserve training facility and arm themselves if Card showed up.
“Please,” he wrote. “I believe he’s messed up in the head.”
But authorities declined to confront Card — the clearest example of the missed opportunities to intervene and prevent the deadliest shooting in state history. That’s hard to swallow for Hodgson, who’s pushing back against an independent report for law enforcement that described him as “over the top” and “alarmist.”
“I did my job, and I went over and beyond it, and I literally spelled it out for them,” said Hodgson, 43, referred to by only his last name in documents related to the case. “I don’t know how clear I could have gotten.”
Hodgson’s account, taken together with law enforcement documents, videos and other interviews, provides the most comprehensive picture to date of potential missteps leading up to the attack.
In replying to AP’s questions about the investigation and Hodgson’s warning, the Army Reserve said in a statement this week that no one should jump to conclusions until its own investigation and an independent probe by the Army inspector general are finalized.
“Any speculation at this point without having all the details could affect the outcome of the investigation. More details may become available once the investigation is complete,” Lt. Col. Addie Leonhardt, Army Reserve spokesperson, said in the statement. Officials wouldn’t comment further.
Sheriff Joel Merry — of Sagadahoc County, where Card lived — didn’t respond to AP’s questions about whether Hodgson’s warning was taken seriously enough but suggested a need for public policy changes. He previously said his office has been “fully transparent” and is cooperating with an independent commission appointed by the governor.
Hodgson said he doesn’t know where the failings occurred but believes more could have been done to help his friend and prevent tragedy.
“I understand he did a horrific thing. I don’t agree with it. But I loved him,” he said. “ I didn’t want any of this for anybody.”