LEWISTON, Maine — After hearing the suspect in two mass shootings here this week was found dead by police, locals gathered at a 7-Eleven convenience store, one of the only places open in the city late Friday.
Across the street from Central Maine Medical Center, where many of the victims of the mass shootings were treated, friends and family greeted each other, expressing relief that this part of their nightmare was over.
“I’m taking the next three days off and sleeping,” said Chris Palmer of Lewiston, who works for Domino’s Pizza and said he was working nonstop and often juggling eight or nine orders at a time since a shelter-in-place order went into effect on Wednesday.
It was lifted on Friday after Gov. Janet Mills and police announced that Robert R. Card II, the suspect in the shootings that killed 18 people and injured 13 others, was found dead around 7:45 p.m. near a transfer station in Lisbon.
Before she began speaking, Mills first hugged Regan Thibodeau, the expressive American Sign Language interpreter who became well-known for her work in press briefings early in the COVID-19 pandemic and translated during briefings on the shootings.
Thibodeau’s friend and colleague, interpreter Josh Seals, was among four members of Maine’s deaf community allegedly killed by Card at a cornhole tournament at a bar on Lewiston Wednesday. It was the second of two locations where police say he entered and opened fire at two locations before fleeing and sparking a 48-hour manhunt.
Indications are that he died from a self-inflicted gun wound, Mike Sauschuck, commissioner of the Maine Department of Public Safety, said. Even though Card is no longer a threat, Mills said she is aware that knowledge may not bring solace to victims, their families and friends.
“But now is the time to heal,” Mills said. “I know that law enforcement continues to fully investigate this tragedy so that we can bring what closure we can to the victims and their families.”
As well as consolations, people have questions, too: Why did the alleged gunman, Card, do it? How could he get that weapon given his documented history of struggling with mental health?
“Some of this is the system’s fault, he shouldn’t have had guns,” Kevin Pease, whose two daughters regularly bowl at Just-In-Time recreation, said outside the 7-Eleven.
These questions linger in the minds of Lewiston locals, and it’s hard to feel safe knowing this happened. Chris Flanagan and Jasmine Whitehead, a husband and wife who live in Lewiston, said they plan to get a firearm after this week’s mass shootings.
“I’m going to protect my family,” said a friend of the couple who didn’t want to be identified. “Without a doubt. Without a doubt.”
The city and region will rest easier. But Flanagan and others acknowledged that it’ll be a tough road ahead for not only the victims’ families, but for Card’s relatives, too.
“I hope the community rallies around that family,” said Michelle Tucker, who works at a local nonprofit. “His kids are probably wondering the same thing we are: ‘Why did he do this?’”