June 18th, 2024

At least 16 dead in Maine shooting as police hunt for ‘person of interest’ and residents shelter

By David Sharp, The Associated Press on October 25, 2023.

In this image taken from video released by the Androscoggin County Sheriff's Office, an unidentified shooter points a gun while entering Sparetime Recreation in Lewiston, Maine, on Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2023. Maine State Police ordered residents in the state's second-largest city to shelter in place Wednesday night as the suspect remains at large. (Androscoggin County Sheriff's Office via AP)

LEWISTON, Maine (AP) – A man opened fire at a bar and a bowling alley in Lewiston, Maine, on Wednesday, killing at least 16 people, wounding dozens of others and throwing the state’s second-largest city into chaos as hundreds of police searched for a person of interest and residents were ordered to shelter in place.

A police intelligence bulletin identified Robert Card, who was trained as a firearms instructor at a U.S. Army Reserve training facility in Maine, as the person of interest. The document, reviewed by The Associated Press and circulated to law enforcement officials, says Card had been committed to a mental health facility for two weeks in the summer of 2023. It did not provide specific details about his treatment or condition.

The document also said Card had reported hearing voices and had threatened to carry out a shooting at the military training base in Saco, Maine. A telephone number listed for Card in public records was not in service.

Lewiston Police said in an earlier Facebook post that they were dealing with an active shooter incident at Schemengees Bar and Grille and Sparetime Recreation, a bowling alley about 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) away. The Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office released two photos of the suspect on its Facebook page that showed a shooter walking into an establishment with a weapon raised to their shoulder. Authorities said the shooting started just before 7 p.m.

Two law enforcement officials told The Associated Press that at least 16 people were killed and the toll was expected to rise. However, Michael Sauschuck, commissioner of the Maine Department of Public Safety, declined to provide a specific estimate at a news conference, calling it a “fluid situation.”

The two law enforcement officials said dozens of people also had been wounded. The officials were not authorized to publicly discuss details of the ongoing investigation and spoke to AP on condition of anonymity.

On its website, Central Maine Medical Center said staff were “reacting to a mass casualty, mass shooter event” and were coordinating with area hospitals to take in patients. The hospital was locked down and police, some armed with rifles, stood by the entrances.

Meanwhile, hospitals as far away as Portland, about 35 miles (56 kilometers) to the south, were on alert to potentially receive victims.

Authorities ordered residents and business owners to stay inside and off the streets. The shelter-in-place order was extended Wednesday night from Lewiston to Lisbon, about 8 miles (13 kilometers) away, after a “vehicle of interest” was found there, authorities said.

Melinda Small, the owner of Legends Sports Bar and Grill, said her staff immediately locked their doors and moved all 25 customers and employees away from the doors after a customer reported hearing about the shooting at the bowling alley less than a quarter-mile away around 7 p.m. Soon, the police flooded the roadway and a police officer eventually escorted everyone out of the building four at a time. Everyone in the bar is safe.

“I am honestly in a state of shock. I am blessed that my team responded quickly and everyone is safe,” Small told The Associated Press. “But the same time, my heart is broken for this area and for what everyone is dealing with. I just feel numb.”

The alert for Lewiston was made shortly after 8 p.m. as the sheriff’s office reported that law enforcement agencies were investigating “two active shooter events.” Officials issued an update around 10 p.m. on their search.

“Avoid the area until authorities give the all-clear,” the statement said. “Seek alternative routes to circumvent the area and any disruptions. If already operating in the affected region, adhere to all instructions issued by local officials, including the shelter-in-place order.”

“We are encouraging all businesses to lock down and or close while we investigate,” the sheriff’s office reported.

A spokesperson for Maine Department of Public Safety urged residents to stay in their homes with their doors locked.

“Law enforcement is currently investigating at two locations right now,” Shannon Moss said. “Again please stay off the streets and allow law enforcement to diffuse the situation.”

Gov. Janet Mills released a statement echoing those instructions. She said she had been briefed on the situation and will remain in close contact with public safety officials.

President Joe Biden had spoken by phone to Mills and the state’s Senate and House members, offering “full federal support in the wake of this horrific attack,” a White House statement said.

Local schools will be closed Thursday and people should shelter in place or seek safety, Superintendent Jake Langlais said, adding: “Stay close to your loved ones. Embrace them.”

Wednesday’s death toll was staggering for a state that in 2022 had 29 homicides the entire year.

Lewiston emerged as a major center for African immigration into Maine. The Somali population, which numbers in the thousands, has changed the demographics of the once overwhelmingly white mill city into one of the most diverse in northern New England.

Maine Sen. Angus King, an independent, said he was “deeply sad for the city of Lewiston and all those worried about their family, friends and neighbors” and was monitoring the situation. King’s office said the senator would be headed directly home to Maine on the first flight possible.

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Associated Press journalists Patrick Whittle in Portland, Maine, Michael Balsamo in New York, Darlene Superville in Washington, Michael Casey in Boston and Holly Ramer in Concord, New Hampshire, contributed to this report.

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