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Maine State Police respond to criticism as governor launches independent commission

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(LEWISTON, Maine) — Maine State Police said they’re focused on keeping the public safe after an Androscoggin County Sheriff’s deputy reportedly criticized their response to last week’s shooting in Lewiston.

“This deputy has the luxury of his opinion,” Maine State Police Col. William Ross said in a statement. “But as a Command Staff we have the ultimate responsibility over an operation that included 50 law enforcement agencies, multiple air assets and 16 tactical teams that were used to mitigate potential risk to the community and law enforcement.”

The back-and-forth between the law enforcement agencies comes about a week after a 40-year-old U.S. Army reservist, Robert Card, allegedly killed 18 people and injured 13 others in a mass shooting in Lewiston, Maine.

In the wake of the shooting, a longtime member of the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office reportedly posted and deleted a scathing critique of the state police response. ABC News was not able to immediately verify the authenticity of screenshots of the post.

Maine’s Department of Safety said state police are “aware” of the sheriff deputy’s social media post “expressing his opinion about the law enforcement response and operations regarding the mass shooting in Lewiston. It is unfortunate that one individual has disparaged the exemplary work of hundreds of municipal, county, state, and federal law enforcement officers who worked around the clock to identify, search for and ultimately locate Robert Card’s body in 48 hours.”

Maine State Police said they are currently working on their own timeline of the two-day manhunt for Card, who was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Separately, the state of Maine is now taking stock in the shootings’ aftermath in order to answer the question so many have asked: How could this happen and how can it be prevented from happening again?

Maine Gov. Janet Mills said she’s launching an independent commission in an attempt to answer those questions and others.

Mills said she’ll work with the attorney general to establish a group comprised of experts with legal, investigative and mental health backgrounds, who will set about determining the “facts and circumstances” surrounding the shootings.

The group will be charged with scrutinizing the months leading up to Oct. 25, when there appears to have been a number of missed warning signs about Card’s mental health decline. They’ll also study the police response to the shootings, the governor’s office said.

Mills said she hopes to formally announce the commission and its membership next week.

“It is important to recognize that, from what we know thus far, on multiple occasions over the last ten months, concerns about Mr. Card’s mental health and his behavior were brought to the attention of his Army National Reserve Unit, as well as law enforcement agencies here in Maine and in New York,” Mills said in a statement. “This raises crucial questions about actions taken and what more could have been done to prevent this tragedy from occurring.”

Mills acknowledged that Maine State Police are “working hard to conduct a thorough and comprehensive criminal investigation of the shooting, but I also believe that the gravity of this attack on our people – an attack that strikes at the core of who we are and the values we hold dear – demands a higher level of scrutiny.”

Maine State Police released a statement, in tandem with Mills’ announcement, lauding the decision to scrutinize their actions.

“We applaud the Governor’s decision. The Maine State Police is proud of our actions and response to the Oct. 25 shootings in Lewiston and we welcome an independent review of not only what preceded the shootings but the police response to it,” they said. “This traumatic event has impacted the entire state. It deserves a large scale comprehensive review and we look forward to working with the commission in the coming months.”

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