The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Maine Mass Shooter Had Traumatic Brain Injury

Mar 25, 2024

Autopsy results came out recently on Robert Card, the Army Reservist who carried out a mass shooting in Maine last October, killing 18 people and wounding 18 others. The autopsy showed Card had severe brain damage.

Card spent eight years as a grenade instructor. As a result, he was repeatedly exposed to grenade blasts.

The autopsy showed he had shredded nerve connections deep in his brain, torn blood vessels that could no longer support nerve cells, and clumps of dead cell debris in his brain. According to the New York Times, the connection between Card’s brain’s frontal lobes responsible for executive functions and parts of his brain that control fear, anger, impulsiveness and violence were badly damaged. “If your frontal lobes are not online,” neurologist Dr. Lee Goldstein said, “you are not acting like a normal adult who can exercise judgment and tamp down aggression.”

There were clear warning signs that Card was showing increasingly erratic behavior well before he undertook his mass shooting. His relatives warned police he was becoming paranoid as far back as May of last year. He was sent to a psychiatric unit in July after shoving a fellow soldier. The Army took disciplinary action against him.

In September, a close friend of his, Sean Hodgson, texted his Army Reserve supervisor after a night out with Card, when he said Card “flipped out,” pounding the steering wheel while driving, and nearly crashing several times. When his friend asked him to stop and let him out, Card punched him in the face. Hodgson was so alarmed by Card’s behavior that he suggested that authorities change the passcode on the gate at the Army Reserve training grounds. Knowing Card had access to guns, Hodgson wrote in his text, 40 days before the shooting, “I believe he’s going to snap and do a mass shooting.”

Studies show that vets exposed to explosive blasts are more likely to have behavioral problems, to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, to get divorced, to commit suicide and to commit crimes. Some soldiers from artillery crews that fired many explosives during combat experienced paranoia and delusions, according to the New York Times. Many vets exposed to blasts are misdiagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, causing their brain-injuries to be missed, according to Dr. Goldstein.

So, while not every blast-exposed vet carries out a mass shooting, it is certainly not a stretch to attribute some connection between Robert Card’s brain damage and his committing a mass shooting.

Frank Larkin, the sergeant-at-arms of the U.S. Senate tells of his son Ryan, a Navy Seal who died by suicide, and was found to have brain damage after being exposed to explosive blasts. Larkin said of Card’s autopsy findings, “The implications are just so large. We now have to acknowledge that the weapons and the training are creating a major problem.”

The military won’t admit that repeated exposure to explosions can lead to events like mass shootings because it doesn’t want to be liable for damages and wants to justify exposing more soldiers to such dangerous conditions.

The real solution, then, would be to prevent repeated exposures to explosive blasts, but that’s not going to happen with the never-ending wars and the obvious increase in preparation for a larger war on the part of the U.S. and other militaries around the world.

Certainly, there are many other causes for mass shootings besides exposure to explosive blasts in the military, but in the case of Robert Card it certainly appears to have played a role. Preventing similar tragedies requires putting an end to a society in which war is an everyday business.