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Inside Politics

Manhunt Underway For Maine Gunman; At Least 18 Killed; Federal Agencies Including FBI, ATF Assisting In Manhunt; Biden: This "Is Not Normal, And We Cannot Accept It"; Biden Calls For Assault Weapons Ban, Universal Background Checks; Maine Shooting Suspect Was Skilled Marksman, Former Army Reserve Colleague Tells CNN. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired October 26, 2023 - 12:00   ET



DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Today on Inside Politics, carnage in America again. A manhunt is underway, and another community terrorized after mass shootings at a bowling out alley and a bar and grill in Lewiston, Maine. State officials say at least 18 people are dead. All from gunshot wounds, 13 others are injured, at least three are in critical condition. The shooter is still at large and considered armed and dangerous.

People across multiple Maine cities are being told to shelter in place and lock their doors. Police are searching for 40-year-old Robert Card who is now facing multiple murder charges. They say, he's a military trained firearms instructor and a member of the army reserves who was recently committed to a mental health facility.


COL. WILLIAM ROSS, MAINE STATE POLICE: If you come into any contact with this individual or someone that you think looks like this individual, you would call 911. Lewiston Police Department, federal state county and other local municipalities are involved in a coordinated search at this moment for this individual. So is the ongoing investigation and there's a search to apprehend this person both happened simultaneously.


BASH: I want to get straight to CNN's Shimon Prokupecz who is on the scene in Lisbon, Maine. Shimon, I know you have been speaking to sources up there all morning, and of course, last night. What are you hearing about any aspect of how close they are to this suspect?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it doesn't appear, at least, when on the ground or from any information that we're getting from authorities that they're any closer to capturing the suspect at this point.

They know where he left his car. They have his car, but where he went after that. If they know, they're not saying. They told everyone to stay indoors, because they're worried for people safety, indicating, you know, for most people here who are worried for their safety that they don't know where he is. And really law enforcement not really giving much information as to where they think perhaps, he went after he dumped his car, did he use another car to somehow get away.

The area where they've been searching for him is a wooded area. But we're not seeing the law enforcement presence that we normally see when there's a manhunt. They're not in the woods searching. As far as we know, it's the local police department, the 17-person police department on the ground, they're doing the searches internally. There's a lot of things going on behind the scenes that we're not seeing.

But in terms of where this individual is, in terms of whether people should feel any safer today or at this moment than they did, you know, yesterday before this happened. It's certainly clear that's not the case that there is still a danger in these communities as law enforcement continues to search for the suspect.

BASH: It's still a danger, indeed. You know, I can see where you are. It's empty behind you as it should be because people seem to be following the instructions of officials there to stay indoors and keep their doors locked. And yet, I'm sure the tension on the ground there that the raw fear must be palpable.

PROKUPECZ: It is, and even for law enforcement, you know, I spent some time with the chief in Lisbon this morning where they're doing the search. You know, one point when he finished wrapping up a search, you know, he's wearing his body armor. He's carrying the big rifle. You know, you could see his heart just going and you could see there's this energy, this adrenaline rush. He's been up all night.


They've been responding to 911 calls. People afraid in their homes, they hear a noise. They think they see something. They're calling 911, driving through the streets to see stores empty, closed coffee shops, restaurants, just stores closed all along the road here. People are not opening the stores. They're not going to work. Schools are closed.

So, this is really affecting so many people. And right now, we just don't have many answers from law enforcement as to what's really going on and if they have any indication of where this individual may be.

BASH: Yes. And we should underscore that while this manhunt is going on, what we reported at the top of the show, 18 people are dead from gunshot wounds, 13 others, 13 others are injured. Thank you so much for that, Shimon.

I want to now turn to CNN's Evan Perez, who has also been talking to law enforcement sources. It was noteworthy at the press conference that was about an hour and a half ago, how few answers that they had or details they wanted to offer.

You know, you can understand that they want to keep some things quiet, as they're looking for this man. But a lot of times in situations like this, they are very public. And they're warnings and information that they give to the public in order to enlist members of the public. EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right. And I think one of the things they've done is already put out the obviously the photograph and pictures of the vehicle. And that's to try to generate tips from the public. People who have seen this person, who have seen this vehicle, people who know him to try to reach out.

One of the things that they're really worried about at this point, Dana, is that what possible plans he has in addition to just running away and hiding right and evading. The concern that law enforcement has and why you see the shelter in place, and why they want people to stay out of sight and in their homes, is that the fact is this is unusual, right?

Not only is it -- you have a shooter who carried out one shooting at one location, moves about 10 minutes down the road to a second location kills more people, and then manages to get away. Seems to have some, obviously some tactics to evade, law enforcement leaving his vehicle in one location. He's nowhere near there, apparently.

And the question that law enforcement has this hour is, you know, does he have plans to try to kill additional people? Are there more possible shooting locations that he has planned? Because there is some level of preparation that he seems to have done.

Now, the problem here is obviously, this is a very sparsely populated state. There is a very rural area around Lewiston. There's plenty of places for someone like this to hide, especially someone with some skill. 20 years of law enforcement, I'm sorry, 20 years of military training.

BASH: That was my next question. This isn't just some civilian who grabbed a gun and is acting just radically but conducted a massacre. This is somebody who is skilled in the ways of war.

PEREZ: Right. And also, you know, let's be honest, this is Maine, and a lot of people in Maine go out for days to go, you know, hunting for deer and other wildlife to, you know, again, this is part of what life in Maine is like. And so, people do grow up with a lot of experience, spending time in very difficult conditions, very rugged, it's cold, and they know how to traverse these woods, right?

And so, that's why you see the FBI, you know, all of the marshals and ATF, all of them are heading up there. They're bringing in things like, you know, aircraft that can detect any signs of heat, for instance, if someone's hiding in the woods. They can try to use -- try to pick up if he has a cell phone to try to figure out where he last was, where he's been over the last few days.

Again, to get any sort of indication of where this guy could be headed next. Again, the big fear is that he's not done with what he's been doing. And that's the biggest concern.

BASH: I mean, absolutely terrifying. Thank you so much for that reporting, Evan. I now want to go to CNN's John Miller, who is former NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence & Counterterrorism. And John, you have been working your sources in a big way since this happened. As I come to you, I just want to say what our colleague Haley Britzky is hearing, which is that in July of this year, leaders of the Army Reserve's 3rd Battalion 304th Infantry Regiment reported that this individual Robert Card was behaving erratically. And this is according to a national guard spokesperson, and he was subsequently transported to Keller Army Community Hospital for medical evaluation.

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: So, that's right. First Sergeant Robert Card, Sergeant First Class was at the Camp Smith training facility in upstate New York around Peekskill this summer, when we started making statements about hearing voices. We are told by sources about wanting to hurt soldiers.


So, he got that command referral to the military hospital where he was transported to and spent a couple of weeks under observation and being evaluated, and likely receiving some kind of medication. But we don't have much of a picture after that, in terms of that was this summer that takes us through September and October, into what occurred in between that time.

There is, you know, that he's been in Maine, that he has been attached to the army reserve center in Saco, Maine. And that one of the stressors he may have gone through was the loss of a job at a local recycling center. But he is really unknown to law enforcement, except for an arrest in 2007, a long time ago, for an alleged driving under the influence charge.

He doesn't really appear on anybody's databases. He's not known to ATF. He's not in FBI holdings. He has appeared on paper to be a longtime member of the military, 20 years in service. Somebody who stayed in the military reserves, and somebody who served his country.

So, I think a lot of time will be spent, not now but later, going back over was that encounter in that referral, something that needed to be looked at further. You know, did the authorities in Maine where he has a compound with 1000 acres of land and a number of weapons? Did they get up a file six card, as they call it, saying here is someone who went through a mental episode and may have to be given a second look in terms of weapons he has.

BASH: Before I let you go, I want to ask you about what Evan and I were just talking about, which is the limited details we are hearing from law enforcement about their search for this suspect. How normal is that from your perspective with this type of search?

MILLER: Well, they're being very circumspect. So, what we saw last night was, once they had a picture of the suspect, and before they knew who he was, they went out with that picture almost immediately. That was to get a running start by saying if we can investigate our way to who this person is fast enough, we can crowdsource it. And that worked. And that's a good thing, because what they had was an extreme lack of information about their suspect.

Now, they know a lot more about their suspect, and they're giving out way less information. And that's usually a signal that they have information of value that they are using. And they are trying hard to walk the line between informing the public and not compromising things that they hope will lead them closer to an arrest and capture.

BASH: Yes. That makes sense. Hope is definitely an important word in that sense that you just uttered. John Miller, thank you so much. Thank you for all of your amazing reporting, Evan and Shimon as well. Coming up, much more on the manhunt in Maine, including details on the gun laws that are on the books in that state.




BASH: President Biden ordered flags lowered to half-staff until Monday to honor the victims of the massacre last night in Maine. The White House says the president has been in touch with Governor Janet Mills and members of the state's congressional delegation.

CNN's Priscilla Alvarez is live at the White House for us. Priscilla, the president just released a statement moments ago. What did he say?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well simply put, he said this is not normal and we cannot accept it. Talking about the tragedy in Maine, and the mass shootings that have become his reality on an almost daily basis. Going on to say, "today in the wake of yet another tragedy, I urge Republican lawmakers in Congress to fulfill their duty to protect the American people."

He goes on to say work with us to pass a bill, banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines to enact universal background checks, to require safe storage of guns and end immunity from liability for gun manufacturers, saying, it's the least that we owe the American people.

But Dana, the political reality here is that legislation is stalled in Congress. There are divisions and they have been in an impasse when trying to pass additional legislation and stricter gun laws. Now the president did have signature gun legislation, passed over the course of his administration.

And the White House recently announced that they have started in office, called the White House office of gun violence and prevention, which focuses on implementing parts of that legislation, including the expansion of background checks, as well as looking at what other executive actions that the administration can take.

But the president has said before that he has exhausted almost all of his options on this front when it comes to executive authority, and that there is just not that much more they can do. But Dana, it is clear today, another day the president waking up to another mass shooting. And to the point, where yesterday at a state dinner, this American reality disrupted international diplomacy when the president was pulled out for briefings and calls on this matter. Dana? BASH: Thank you so much for that reporting, Priscilla. I want to now go to CNN's Josh Campbell. Josh, we know this suspect is somebody who is reported to have had mental health issues. Gun safety groups have been highly critical of Maine's pretty lacks gun laws. How easy is it to obtain a firearm in Maine?


JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's quite easy, Dana. And you know, the reason this is important after these incidents, we look at access. That's the big question the law enforcement has. How did someone with this intent and capability actually get access to a firearm and then go on to commit this atrocity. As you look at some of the gun laws there or the state of gun safety in the state of Maine, there is no assault weapons ban.

Now we know that according to the images that police released of this suspect, appears he has a semi-automatic assault style rifle. That weapon not inherently illegal in the state of Maine. There are also no background checks for private sales. If you go to a federally licensed dealer or a gun store, you do go through a federal background check.

But if you're buying, for example, from a friend or someone that you met online, you don't go through that rigorous background check. And then there's no red flag laws, which of course, we've talked about the suspects past mental health issues, these so-called red flag laws allow law enforcement or a family member of someone who might be in crisis to go to a judge and have a gun removed, that doesn't exist in that state. Dana?

BASH: Let's hone-in on that red flag law, and the fact that Maine doesn't have it, because as you mentioned, we have been told that the suspect has a recent history of mental health issues. Maine does have a unique sort of a variation of the red flag law. What does that look like?

CAMPBELL: That's right. This is the so-called yellow flag law, and it requires additional steps for police. So rather than going to a judge as they would in a red flag state, what officials in Maine have to do is take a suspect into custody or not a suspect, someone who might be in crisis. Take them to a medical facility for evaluation and a doctor actually has to sign off that they believe that person is a potential threat to themselves or someone else.

The police officer then takes that certification to a judge. And then the judge will ultimately decide if the medical evaluation fits the standard. And so, you know, critics of that say that's more steps for law enforcement. It's more cumbersome rather than police going directly to a judge. But that is certainly on the books there in Maine.

BASH: This is an interesting stat that might surprise people given the horrors that we are seeing in Maine right now. There is easy access to firearms there as you just laid out. But the state has a relatively low violent crime rate, a very low violent crime rate. Does it make it harder to respond to those who may be a threat to themselves and others?

CAMPBELL: Well, it's interesting. You look at the state of Maine, they have high gun ownership, but relatively low violent crime, as you mentioned. You know, we've heard from gun rights enthusiast who say that, look, law abiding people should be able to have guns.

If you look at the numbers in the state of Maine, again, you have a lot of people with guns, but not a lot of violent crime. You can see the statistics there compared to the rest of the nation. Last year 29 homicides, excuse me, 2022, yes, last year in the state of Maine, so relatively low crime, but all that I think gets back to this individual himself. And that is certainly what officials will be looking at.

We know according to those past mental health issues that he had, and I will preface this, or I should point out that just because someone has a mental health crisis, does not mean that they will go on to commit a crime. We don't want stigmatized mental health.

But it's something that law enforcement looks at because if you have these potential warning signs, according to our reporting, this person underwent an evaluation, regardless of whether he was a law-abiding citizen, you know, two weeks ago or the day before yesterday.

The question is, did he exhibit signs that then would have prevented him from having this gun or possibly having a gun confiscated. A lot of questions there because police want to know how to prevent the next one, Dana?

BASH: No question about that. Thank you so much for that. It was really helpful context, Josh. And up next. I'll talk to Maine's U.S. Senator Angus King. He's going to come on to talk about the heart ache and deep fear, sweeping his state right now as the manhunt there continues.




BASH: We're following the breaking news out of Maine, where a mass shooter is on the loose. His former colleague just told CNN, this is new information we're getting, told CNN that he is a skilled marksman and outdoorsman who was among the best shooters in his army reserve unit.

CNN's Tom Foreman is tracking everything we know about this manhunt. Tom, what can you tell us about the area that law enforcement is searching right now?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All I can tell you, Dana, that is growing by the hour. Remember, this is seven o'clock last night, when this all started according to authorities. We're now at least 15 hours and change beyond that. And we know that it started in a relatively limited location, just in time recreation up here. That's the bowling alley, showing his bar and grill restaurant. This is only about four miles apart. But then pretty soon it expanded out here to this area where the vehicle was found, that's about eight miles from the town. So now we're in a position where they're really having to look wider and wider, potentially depending on when he's moving.

Think about what you just said about what this person may know here. If we look at the suspect Robert Card, certified firearms instructor, a member of the U.S. Army Reserve, made threats to carry out a shooting at national guard facility earlier on, according to authorities and reporting mental health issues including hearing voices.

If you look at all of that, you combine it with that information you just reported there. The idea that this is somebody who may know the outdoors very well, who may be very skilled at this, you understand how this shooting. This really changes the approach that law enforcement has to take to him. They're always going to go into cases like this, moving as quickly as they can.

But look at the terrain around here. Maine is one of the least populated states in this country. I've been up in this area.