LEWISTON, Maine (AP) — Shocked and fearful Maine residents remained confined to their homes for a second consecutive night as hundreds of heavily armed police and FBI agents launched an intensive manhunt for Robert Card, an Army reservist alleged to have perpetrated a fatal shooting spree at a bowling alley and a bar. This horrifying event marks the deadliest mass killing in the history of the state.
On Thursday, the search effort largely focused on a property connected to one of Card’s relatives in the rural town of Bowdoin. The area was swarmed with trucks and vans carrying armed agents from the FBI and various law enforcement agencies. Repeated announcements were broadcast through loudspeakers, instructing Card and anyone inside the premises to surrender peacefully. Unlike typical warrant executions, the authorities refrained from swift entry, giving ample time for compliance.
Hours later, after exhaustive searches, law enforcement withdrew from the location. It remained uncertain if Card had ever been at this particular site, according to state police.
Richard Goddard, a resident of the road where the search transpired, had insights into the Card family. He noted that Robert Card, who is four years younger, was familiar with the terrain, having grown up in the area. “This is his stomping ground. He grew up here,” Goddard stated. “He knows every ledge to hide behind, every thicket.”
The manhunt extended to several homes as investigators pursued every lead in their pursuit of Card. Authorities emphasized that Card, a 40-year-old with firearms instructor training, should be considered armed and dangerous, and the public should not approach him.
Card is suspected of opening fire with at least one rifle at a bar and a bowling alley in Lewiston on Wednesday, which is approximately 15 miles from Bowdoin and is Maine’s second-largest city. The tragic incidents claimed the lives of 18 people and left 13 others wounded, with three individuals remaining in critical condition.
The authorities have not disclosed the number of firearms used or how they were obtained.
As a result of the shootings, schools, doctor’s offices, and grocery stores were closed, and residents in cities located up to 50 miles away from the scenes of the violence remained behind locked doors. The largest city in Maine, Portland, shuttered its public buildings, while the Canada Border Services Agency issued an “armed and dangerous” alert to its officers stationed along the U.S. border.
Streets in Lewiston and its neighboring communities were eerily deserted late Thursday night. Occasional police patrols and vehicles passed through neighborhoods adorned with illuminated Halloween decorations.
Schools in Lewiston would remain closed on Friday, and those in Portland would decide in the morning whether to open. Bates College in Lewiston also canceled classes on Friday and postponed the inauguration of the school’s first Black president.
April Stevens, a resident in the same neighborhood where one of the shootings occurred, recounted turning on all her lights and locking her doors. She had a personal connection to the tragedy, knowing someone who was killed at the bar and another person who was injured and required surgery. “We’re praying for everyone,” she said tearfully.
The shocking attacks have rattled a state with a population of only 1.3 million people, which historically boasts one of the country’s lowest homicide rates—29 homicides throughout the entirety of 2022.
Maine Governor Janet Mills pledged to do everything necessary to locate Card and hold him accountable, seeking full justice for the victims and their families.
In the midst of the search for Card, details about his recent behavior emerged. In mid-July, Card underwent a mental health evaluation after displaying erratic behavior while with his reserve regiment, according to a U.S. official. A nationwide bulletin issued after the attack indicated that Card had been committed to a mental health facility for two weeks in the summer, as he had reportedly heard voices and threats related to a military base shooting.
Maine does not require permits to carry guns, and the state has a deep-rooted culture of gun ownership linked to hunting and sport shooting traditions. In consideration of the strong support for gun rights, lawmakers enacted a “yellow flag” law in 2019, requiring police to seek a medical evaluation of anyone deemed dangerous before attempting to seize their firearms. However, critics contended that this law was a weaker version of the more stringent “red flag” laws implemented by many other states.
A neighbor, Dave Letarte, shared that the Card family had allowed deer hunting on their property and had been kind. However, Letarte had noticed that Robert Card appeared to be grappling with mental health issues for a while. “People have problems, but you don’t expect them to go off the deep end like that,” Letarte expressed. “When we saw it on the news last night, I was shocked.”
A listed telephone number for Card in public records was found to be out of service. A woman who answered a phone number for one of Card’s relatives disclosed that the family was assisting the FBI but did not provide her name or additional details.
Eight murder warrants were issued for Card after identifying eight of the victims. Maine State Police Col. William Ross noted that ten more warrants would likely be issued once the names of the remaining deceased individuals were confirmed.
Of the 13 people wounded in the shootings, three were in critical condition, while five were hospitalized but in stable condition, as reported by Central Maine Medical Center officials.
The tragic events began at Just-In-Time Recreation, where a children’s bowling league was in session shortly before 7 p.m. on Wednesday.
Patrick Poulin, who was supposed to be at the bowling center with his 15-year-old son, recollected the numerous young bowlers and their parents who were present during the attack. His brother was on-site and helped some of the children to safety when the shooting commenced. Poulin reflected, “He’s pretty shook up. And it’s just sinking in today, like, wow, I was very close to being there. And a lot of the people that got hurt, I know.”
In contrast to previous mass shootings in the United States, where suspects were quickly located, whether deceased or alive, Card remained at large a full day after the shootings.