LEWISTON, Maine — Shocked and fearful Maine residents kept to their homes Friday as hundreds of heavily armed police and FBI agents searched intensely for Robert Card, an Army reservist who authorities say fatally shot 18 people at a bowling alley and a bar in the worst mass killing in state history.
Much of Thursday’s search focused on a large property belonging to one of Card’s relatives in rural Bowdoin, where trucks and vans full of armed agents from the FBI and other agencies eventually surrounded a home on Thursday.
The Cards have lived in Bowdoin for generations, neighbors said, and various members of the Card family own hundreds of acres in the area.
“This is his stomping ground,” Richard Goddard, who lives on the road where the search took place, said of the suspect. “He knows every ledge to hide behind, every thicket.”
Authorities repeatedly yelled for Card and anyone else inside the home to surrender. But hours later, they left, with state police saying it was unclear whether the suspect had ever been at the location.
Authorities say Card, 40, who has firearms training, opened fire with at least one rifle at a bar and a bowling alley Wednesday in Lewiston, Maine’s second-largest city about 15 miles from Bowdoin. The attack left 18 people dead and 13 wounded, three of whom were hospitalized in critical condition, authorities said.
The victims of the shootings include Bob Violette, 76, a retiree who was coaching a youth bowling league and was described as devoted, approachable and kind. Auburn City Councilor Leroy Walker told news outlets that his son, Joe, a manager at the bar and grill, died going after the shooter with a butcher knife. Peyton Brewer-Ross was a dedicated pipefitter at Bath Iron Works whose death leaves a gaping void in the lives of his partner, young daughter and friends, members of his union said.
The manager of the youth bowling league vowed that the league would survive despite the devastating grief members were feeling.
“The people we lost were not just random league bowlers, they were people who contributed significantly to the development of our sport and our experience,” said Mark Fortier, who is also the manager of the Maine State U.S. Bowling Congress.
Authorities have not said how many guns were used or how they were obtained.
Schools Closed, Events Postponed
People stayed behind locked doors in cities as far as 50 miles from the scenes of the shootings. Schools in Lewiston and Portland, and public buildings in Portland, remained closed Friday. Bates College in Lewiston also canceled classes Friday and postponed the inauguration of the school’s first Black president.
April Stevens lives in the same neighborhood where one of the shootings took place. She turned on all her lights overnight and locked her doors. She knew someone killed at the bar and another person injured who needed surgery.
“We’re praying for everyone,” Stevens said through tears.
The attacks stunned a state of only 1.3 million people that has one of the country’s lowest homicide rates: 29 killings in all of 2022.
Maine Gov. Janet Mills promised to do whatever was needed to “hold whoever is responsible for this atrocity accountable.”
As authorities searched for Card, details about his recent behavior emerged. He underwent a mental health evaluation in mid-July after he began acting erratically while with his reserve regiment, a U.S. official told The Associated Press.
A neighbor, Dave Letarte, said Card’s family let them deer hunt on their property and were kind, although Letarte said he noticed Card appeared to have mental problems for a while.
“People have problems, but you don’t expect them to go off the deep end like that,” Letarte said. “When we saw it on the news last night, I was shocked.”
Neighbors said the Cards owned the local sawmill, and that years ago a member of the Card family donated the land for a local church.
A telephone number listed for Card in public records was not in service. A woman who answered a phone number for one of Card’s relatives on Thursday afternoon said the family was helping the FBI. She didn’t give her name or additional details.
Eight murder warrants were issued for Card after authorities identified eight of the victims, and 10 more will likely be issued once the names of the rest of the dead are confirmed, police said.
Three of the 13 people wounded in the shootings were in critical condition and five were hospitalized but stable, Central Maine Medical Center officials said.
The attack started at Just-In-Time Recreation, where a children’s bowling league was taking place, just before 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Less than 15 minutes later, numerous 911 calls started coming in from Schemengees Bar and Grille a few miles away.
The search for Card covered both land and water. The Coast Guard sent out a patrol boat Thursday morning along the Kennebec River, but after hours of searching, they found “nothing out of the ordinary,” said Chief Petty Officer Ryan Smith, who is in charge of the Coast Guard’s Boothbay Harbor Station.
A car believed to belong to Card had been discovered by a boat launch in the town of Lisbon near the Androscoggin River, which connects to the Kennebec, and Card’s 15-foot boat remains unaccounted for, Smith said.
In many past U.S. mass shootings, the suspect was found — whether dead or alive — within minutes. But Card was still on the loose more than a full day after the shootings.