CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

Firearms instructor treated at mental health facility is person of interest in Maine shooting: cops

Oct 25, 2023, 9:32 PM

In this image taken from video released by the Androscoggin County Sheriff's Office, an unidentifie...

In this image taken from video released by the Androscoggin County Sheriff's Office, an unidentified gunman 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)

(Androscoggin County Sheriff's Office via AP)

LEWISTON, Maine (AP) — The man identified as a person of interest in a mass killing in Maine is a firearms instructor trained by the military and was recently committed to a mental health facility, according to a state police bulletin.

The police intelligence bulletin, reviewed by The Associated Press, was being circulated to law enforcement officials on Wednesday night after the shootings that left at least 16 people dead.

The bulletin says the man, Robert Card, had been trained as a firearms instructor at a U.S. Army Reserve training facility in Maine. The document 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.

Card was being sought by police as a person of interest in Wednesday’s shootings. A telephone number listed for Card in public records was not in service.

Lewiston Police confirmed in a Facebook post that Card was a person of interest in the shooting and said he should be considered armed and dangerous.

The shootings at a bowling alley and a bar in Lewiston on Wednesday night killed at least 16 people and engulfed the state’s second-largest city in chaos. The suspect remained at large as authorities ordered residents and business owners to stay inside and off the streets.

Two law enforcement officials told The Associated Press 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.

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.

“Please stay off the roads to allow emergency responders access to the hospitals,” police said.

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. A woman who answered the phone in the emergency department said no further information could be released and that the hospital itself was on lockdown.

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 has 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 Congress 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.”

Lewiston, about 35 miles (56 kilometers) north of Portland, 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.

Ange Amores, a spokesperson for the city of Lewiston, said city officials are not commenting on the shooting. Amores said Maine State Police were planning to hold a news conference, likely at city hall, to update the public on Wednesday night.

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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Firearms instructor treated at mental health facility is person of interest in Maine shooting: cops