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Lewiston shooting commission pursuing subpoena power from state legislature

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Lewiston shooting commission pursuing subpoena power from state legislature

Nov 20, 2023 | 12:54 pm ET
By AnnMarie Hilton
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Lewiston shooting commission pursuing subpoena power from state legislature
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A police officer stands beside a roadblock outside Schemengees Bar & Grille in Lewiston one day after a mass shooter killed eight people at the location. (Emma Davis/ Maine Morning Star)

At its first meeting, the Independent Commission to Investigate the Facts of the Tragedy in Lewiston decided to move forward with obtaining subpoena power to ensure it can gather all the necessary information to understand the state’s deadliest mass shooting. 

The commission unanimously agreed Monday to ask Gov. Janet Mills and Attorney General Aaron Frey to introduce legislation in the upcoming session that starts in January. Promptly after the commission concluded its meeting, Mills and Frey issued a joint statement agreeing to move forward with the request.

“As we pledged when we established the Independent Commission, we will do all we can to ensure the Commission has the resources and powers it needs to discharge its fact-finding responsibilities fully and properly,” the statement said. 

While the commission hopes people will share information and public testimony willingly, it recognized that some people may be resistant or feel constrained by privacy issues. Subpoena power could help mitigate those roadblocks. Certain military, psychiatric or medical records may also be unavailable to the commission without a subpoena.

“It’s too bad we can’t get that authority until January; that will probably slow us down a bit,” said Toby Dilworth, a former U.S. Attorney for the District of Maine, who sits on the commission.

Timeline and next steps

In an opening statement, Daniel Wathen, chair of the commission, said he hopes to have a written report within six months that contains factual details about the events before, during and after the Oct. 25 shooting that left 18 people dead and 13 more injured. It’s also expected to include details on what action was taken or could have been taken to prevent it.

Six months is an ambitious timeline for such a “daunting” task, Wathen acknowledged, but called it “highly desirable” and said it’s owed to the people of Maine.

“We will strive to meet it, but not at the expense of failing to establish the truth,” he said.

Other housekeeping items were addressed during the Monday morning meeting including appointing staff to the commission that will assist the seven members. The staff includes a former attorney, a law enforcement official, a Federal Bureau of Investigations agent and a government relations and communications consultant.

The next steps, Wathen said, after getting state-issued computers and cell phones for commission members, is to start collecting and examining reports related to the shooting, including media reports. That will help them determine which areas need further investigation.