LEWISTON, Maine — More than 350 police are investigating the Wednesday mass shootings in Lewiston, adding up to what is likely the largest manhunt in Maine history.
The massive search for 40-year-old Robert R. Card II of Bowdoin continued into Thursday afternoon after police named him as the lone suspect in mass shootings that killed 18 people and injured 13 more at a bowling alley and a bar on opposite ends of the city.
The death toll in these shootings is the highest in recent Maine history and represents one of the highest in the nation over the last few years. It had a police response to match, starting Wednesday evening with local police and surging as the events unfolded, peaking on Thursday as hundreds of police from federal, state and local agencies searched for Card.
“Everyone just comes to see what they can do to help, and then they kind of divvy up assignments,” Shannon Moss, a spokesperson for the Maine Department of Public Safety, told reporters on Thursday, adding it was the largest manhunt here in recent history.
Card’s vehicle was found at a boat launch on Route 196 along the Androscoggin River in Lisbon on Wednesday evening after the shootings. A stretch of road between there and Lisbon High School remained closed to cars on Thursday. In the morning, helicopters circled in areas as far north as Monmouth, and a seaplane flew low over the river between Lewiston and Lisbon.
The shootings began at Just-In-Time Recreation on Mollison Way and were reported at 6:56 p.m. Seven people were killed there, Col. William Ross of the Maine State Police said.
The shooter could only have been there a few minutes, because the bowling alley is roughly a nine-minute drive from Schemengees Bar and Grille Restaurant on Lincoln Street. The second shooting was reported there at 7:08 p.m. At least eight people were killed there, while another three people died after being taken to hospitals, Ross said.
Many questions were left unanswered by police at a news conference, including some about reports that Card recently spent two weeks in mental health treatment and on how he got his hands on a high-powered firearm.
“I know that we’ll be reviewing that information as we move forward, but that’s not an answer we’re prepared to give today,” Maine Public Safety Commissioner Michael Sauschuck said.
Among the first to respond to the shootings were local police and a game warden, Moss said. The Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office and state police then came alongside police from other agencies that surged to respond alongside fire trucks and ambulances.
The shootings also demanded a surge at Central Maine Medical Center, Lewiston’s biggest hospital. There was normal staffing on Wednesday night until officials called in 100 off-duty staff to assist, John Alexander, the chief of the hospital’s parent organization, said Thursday. The hospital remained under armed guard due to a countywide shelter-in-place order.
Auburn Police were escorting family members and other loved ones in and out of the city’s middle school, which was opened as a place for witnesses to be reunified with family on Wednesday evening. Jason Levesque, the city’s mayor, said it was mostly a place for happy news but that some people were told their loved ones died.
On Thursday, state police were flanked at a news conference by the region’s top FBI agent, who is based in Boston, and a representative from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. One helicopter searching the area came from the New Hampshire State Police. Police looked to be escorting civilians into Schemengees as well.
In Bowdoin, where Card lives with his wife on a road alongside many family members, Sagadahoc County sheriff’s Deputy Al Huntington was outside a Meadow Road home that belongs to the suspect’s father, according to property records. He told a reporter that the relative was upset by the shootings and wouldn’t talk to reporters.
“He just said he had too much going on,” Huntington said.
BDN writers Zara Norman and Billy Kobin contributed to this report.
Lewiston Shootings Timeline
Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2023
The shootings started around 6:56 p.m., Maine Public Safety Commissioner Michael Sauschuck said during a news conference late Wednesday evening.
Auburn’s communications center received a 911 call at that time about a man shooting in Just -In-Time Recreation at 24 Mollison Way, Maine State Police Col. William Ross said during a news conference Thursday morning.
The communications center received “multiple 911 calls about an active shooter” inside Schemengees on Lincoln Street, Ross said during Thursday’s news conference. A large law enforcement response assisted Lewiston police in trying to identify who the shooter was and what was happening, he said. Ross called it a “fast-paced, fast-moving, very fluid scene, very dangerous scene that these guys and girls are going into.”
Lewiston resident Robin Payne reported seeing a flurry of police cars, fire trucks and ambulances head toward Schemengees Bar & Grille Restaurant, located less than a quarter mile from Payne on Lincoln Street, at around 7:10 p.m.
Maine Central Healthcare’s trauma center in Lewiston receives its first patient, Chief Medical Officer John Alexander said during a news conference Thursday morning. Within about 45 minutes, medical workers were treating 14 critically ill patients, he said.
The hospital had normal staffing Wednesday night, but because of the influx of patients, about 100 off-duty medical workers came in to help care for patients. That included victims of the shootings and those who were already receiving care at the hospital.
At one point during the evening, there were about 10 ambulance crews outside the trauma center, Alexander said. LifeFlight of Maine as well as nearby medical centers in Boston and Dartmouth provided helicopter services.
Footage from Payne’s doorbell camera showed a police officer outside her house with a long gun, and neighbors reported that he told them to go inside.
Police released a photo of the shooter to the media.
The Lisbon Police Department notified Lewiston police that they located a white Subaru at Paper Mills Trail and Miller Park Boat Launch on Frost Hill in Lisbon, Moss said. The vehicle was traced to Card.
Around 11 p.m.
Moss confirmed to the Bangor Daily News that Card is a person of interest.
Reunification center opens at Auburn Middle School on 38 Falcon Drive for people searching for their loved ones.
Thursday, Oct. 26
About 40 to 45 people had come through the reunification center shortly after midnight on Thursday, Auburn Mayor Jason Levesque sai
Between 11:56 p.m. Wednesday and 2:22 a.m. Thursday
Just before 11 a.m.
Authorities held a press conference where they confirmed that 18 people were killed and 13 injured. Seven died at Just-In-Time Recreation, eight died at Schemengees and three who had been wounded died at area hospitals, Ross said.
Around 5 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 27
The search for the suspect in the mass shooting continued overnight and into Friday. Shelter in place orders are ongoing for Androscoggin County and northern Sagadahoc County, and many schools and businesses remain closed.