CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

During manhunt for suspect in Maine shooting authorities twice converge on last known residence

Oct 26, 2023, 9:42 PM | Updated: Oct 27, 2023, 12:19 pm

A helicopter flies low along the Androscogin River during the manhunt for the suspect in a mass sho...

A helicopter flies low along the Androscogin River during the manhunt for the suspect in a mass shooting near Schemengees Bar and Grille on October 26, 2023 in Lewiston, Maine. Police are still searching for the suspect in the shooting, Robert Card, who allegedly killed 18 people in two separate locations on Wednesday night. (Scott Eisen/Getty Images)

(Scott Eisen/Getty Images)

Bowdoin, Maine (CNN) — A manhunt for a suspect accused of killing 18 people in a bowling alley and a restaurant in Maine surpassed 24 hours Thursday evening – on a day that saw law enforcement twice converge on the suspect’s last known address for searches.

The second time authorities massed at Robert Card’s residence in Bowdoin on Thursday brought tense moments in the evening, as law enforcement officials surrounded the home and one officer could be heard saying “come out with your hands up.”

But that episode appeared to end uneventfully, with authorities leaving the scene two hours later and Maine State Police saying they were done there for the night. Investigators had thought they detected something inside or near the home, which prompted the activity, a law enforcement official said.

Authorities were simply doing their due diligence while trying to execute search warrants, Maine Department of Public Safety spokesperson Shannon Moss told CNN Thursday about the evening’s activity.

Investigators’ visits to the home came amid an extensive manhunt for Card, a suspect in Wednesday evening’s shooting at a bowling alley and at a restaurant in Lewiston, Maine. The shooting killed 18 people and injured 13 others, Gov. Janet Mills said Thursday.

An arrest warrant has been issued for Card, 40, accusing him of murder, Maine State Police Col. William Ross said during a Thursday news conference. He “should be considered armed and dangerous,” officials said.

Thursday’s first major law enforcement convergence on the Bowdoin home came in the afternoon, as investigators executed a search warrant at the home, looking for items like computers, notes, weapons and any evidence that might indicate a plan to carry out, law enforcement sources told CNN.

The FBI used “dynamic entry” procedures, with flash bang devices, during the afternoon search, on the chance that the suspect might have been lying in wait, the sources told CNN.

Authorities also searched another location and the suspect’s car Thursday, the sources said. Law enforcement are expected to return to Bowdoin on Friday to investigate further, Moss said.

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The manhunt has led to a shelter-in-place order covering Androscoggin and northern Sagadahoc counties – an area that includes Lewiston and nearby Auburn and Lisbon – as well as the closures of schools, businesses and other facilities. More than 350 law enforcement personnel are involved in the search for Card, officials said.

Card, of Bowdoin, is a certified firearms instructor and a member of the US Army Reserve, law enforcement officials in Maine told CNN. He had recently threatened to carry out a shooting at a National Guard facility in Saco, Maine, and reported mental health issues, including hearing voices, the officials said.

Card’s family is urging him to surrender, his brother Ryan Card confirmed to CNN via text message. He would not tell CNN if his brother has responded to the family’s requests.

“(We) have helped law enforcement in any way possible,” Ryan Card told CNN.

“The police have been given anything that we can offer to facilitate their efforts,” and “there are many people hurting out there, please focus on them … this is many people’s worst nightmare.”

Some in the area woke up Thursday to officers with long guns scouring their neighborhoods.

“Nerves are rattled right now – (I’m) keeping an eye on the woods,” said Cory, a resident of Lisbon whose 10-year-old daughter was inside his home. “Seeing the cops coming around here, that makes me feel a million times better.”

With a death toll of 18, the rampage appears to be the deadliest mass shooting of the year in the United States and the deadliest since a gunman killed 19 students and two teachers at a school in Uvalde, Texas, in May 2022. There have been 565 mass shootings this year across the country, with four or more shot excluding the shooter, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

Of the 18 victims in Lewiston, seven were found dead at the bowling alley Just-In-Time Recreation and eight were found dead at Schemengees Bar & Grille, while three others died at the hospital, Ross said.

Central Maine Medical Center took in 14 patients over about 45 minutes Wednesday evening, Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Alexander said at a midday news conference Thursday. Eight patients are still hospitalized, including three in critical condition and five in stable condition. In addition, three died, two were discharged and one was transferred, he said.

“This is a dark day for Maine,” Mills said at the news conference. “It’s hard for us to think about healing when our hearts are broken.”

Card faces an arrest warrant for eight counts of murder, Ross of Maine State Police said. “Ten (victims) have not yet been identified. As those people are identified, the counts will probably go to the total of 18.”

By Thursday morning, the entire Lisbon Police Department had been called in to hunt for the shooter and make sure businesses were closed, Chief Ryan McGee said.

“We want to locate the individual, make sure our community’s kept safe,” McGee said, “so biggest thing I can say is make sure that if the community sees anything, stay inside, don’t approach, call the police department.”

How the shooting unfolded

The rampage began shortly before 7 p.m. in Lewiston, a largely working-class community located midway between Portland, the state’s most populous city, and Augusta, the state capital.

Authorities said they received 911 calls of a shooting at Just-in-Time Recreation, a bowling alley on Mollison Way, at 6:56 p.m. About 12 minutes later, authorities received multiple 911 calls about an active shooter at Schemengees Bar and Grille Restaurant, about 4 miles away.

Ross said there was a “large response” from multiple agencies in what he described as a “fluid” scene.

People ran away from Just-in-Time Recreation as police cruisers responded to the scene, video obtained by CNN shows. A person on a stretcher was loaded into an ambulance, another video from outside the bowling alley shows.

Nichoel Wyman Arel was on her way home with her daughter from a Girl Scout meeting when she saw police lights and ambulances around the bowling alley and people running. At least one person looked to be covered in blood, she told CNN’s Laura Coates.

Arel and her daughter saw officers patting people down as they came out of the bowling alley, she said.

“There were kids. Looking back, that was probably the hardest part is seeing just families; families pouring out of there,” Arel said. “And knowing that that happened in there while they were just probably trying to have a family night.”

When she got home, Arel locked up the house, including windows, she said. Her daughter “was scared somebody was going to come into our home.”

A “vehicle of interest” was found Wednesday night 8 miles from Lewiston in Lisbon, prompting shelter-in-place-orders for that area, Maine Director of Public Safety Michael Sauschuck said.

A US Coast Guard official told CNN they are “looking for any suspicious vessel right now” as they search from the air and on the water for Card.

Law enforcement officials found Card’s vehicle abandoned at the Pejepscot Boat Launch in Lisbon, Maine. Public records show he owns a small power boat. Investigators recovered a gun while searching the vehicle, a law enforcement official told CNN on Thursday.

It has not been determined if the firearm was used in the shooting, the source said. Federal agents are conducting a trace on the weapon.

Several of the victims have already been identified.

Tricia Asselin, 53, was one of those killed. She worked part time at Just-In-Time Recreation and was there bowling Wednesday night when the gunman came in and opened fire, her brother DJ Johnson told CNN.

“What I’m told is that when it all started happening, she ran up to the counter and started to call 911, and that’s when she was shot,” Johnson told CNN. “That was just her. She wasn’t going to run (away). She was going to try and help.”

His other sister, Bobbi Nichols, also was at the bowling alley and was able to escape, he said.

Nichols told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Thursday that she and Asselin were bowling with leagues on different lanes when the gunfire started.

She described a chaotic scene where people ran and trampled over each other. She was unable to see her sister, she said.

When Nichols got outside the bowling alley, she ran and eventually hid behind trees with others.

“I kept asking, ‘Where’s my sister’? She’s in there and I just wanted to be with my sister,” Nichols said tearfully.

Nichols, who said Asselin called 911 when shots rang out, didn’t find learn her sister had died until hours after the shootings. “My sister is a hero,” she said.

Leroy Walker, a city councilor in Auburn, told CNN affiliate WGME that his son, Joseph Walker, was the manager of the bar at Schemengees and died in the shooting there. Walker said state police told his son’s wife that Joseph was killed after he picked up a knife and went after the gunman to try and stop him.

Walker said his son’s death took him back to about 25 years ago when he lost his daughter in a car accident, WGME reported.

“When my youngest son told me that he thought his brother, my son, was dead, it just crumbled me all over again,” Walker told WGME.

Suspect made statements about hurting soldiers, sources say

Card, a sergeant first class, was at the Camp Smith training facility in upstate New York this summer when he started making statements about hearing voices and having thoughts about wanting to hurt fellow soldiers, law enforcement sources told CNN’s John Miller.

Consequently, he got a command referral to a military hospital and spent a few weeks under evaluation.

Card’s sister-in-law, Katie O’Neill, said in a brief conversation with CNN on Thursday that Card does not have a long history of mental health struggles.

“This is something that was an acute episode. This is not who he is,” O’Neill said. “He is not someone who has had mental health issues for his lifetime or anything like that.”

Card is a petroleum supply specialist in the Army Reserve and first enlisted in 2002, according to records provided by the Army on Thursday. He has no combat deployments, according to the records.

Army spokesperson Bryce Dubee said in a statement that Card did not train with the Army as a firearms instructor, “nor did he serve in that capacity for the Army.”

Clifford Steeves of Massachusetts told CNN he knew Card when they served in the Army Reserve together, starting in the early 2000s until about a decade ago. He said he never witnessed any concerning behavior from Card.

“He was a very nice guy – very quiet. He never overused his authority or was mean or rude to other soldiers,” Steeves said. “It’s really upsetting.”

Steeves said Card never saw combat but had extensive training, including firearms training and land navigation, “so he would be very comfortable in the woods.” He described Card as an “outdoors type of guy” and a skilled marksman who was one of the best shooters in his unit.

In a Thursday news conference, authorities did not provide details on a potential motive.

Still, one working theory, according to law enforcement sources, is that Card recently broke up with a longtime girlfriend and that they used to frequent to the bowling alley and bar.

Horror strikes a small city

Lewiston is a sprawling residential and industrial area just off the Maine Turnpike and is home to two hospitals and the private liberal arts school Bates College. It’s a largely working-class community, with a median household income of about $48,000 and in which about 16% of the population lives in poverty, according to the US Census.

The governor, who met her husband in Lewiston, described it as a “special place.”

“It’s a close-knit community with a long history of hard work, of persistence, of faith, of opening its big heart to people everywhere,” Mills said. “This city did not deserve this terrible assault on its citizens, on its peace of mind, on its sense of security. No city does, no state, no people.”

President Joe Biden has spoken by phone with Maine lawmakers and “offered full federal support in the wake of this horrific attack,” the White House said in a statement.

Lewiston Mayor Carl Sheline is “heartbroken for our city and our people,” he said. “Lewiston is known for our strength and grit and we will need both in the days to come.”

Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce President Shanna Cox on Thursday called the scene of both attacks “family locations.”

“It was family league activity at the bowling alley. The likeliness of this having direct impact for so many here is so real.”

Auburn Mayor Jason Levesque lost friends in the shooting, he told “CNN This Morning.” A teenager who went to school with his son was shot and is expected to recover, he said.

There’s going to be very few people in this community that have not been touched by this,” he said. “It’s going to be with me for the rest of my life, and it’s really hard for me to explain that.”

“The other folks that I knew that were there either as witnesses or family members of witnesses; it’s obviously traumatic,” Levesque said. “The bright spot was seeing individuals reunified with their loved ones after not knowing for so long, but on the on the other side, the ones that were waiting and waiting, probably would never be reunified.”

Just-In-Time Recreation is “devastated for our community and our staff. We lost some amazing and whole hearted people from our bowling family and community last night,” it said in a statement on Facebook. “There are no words to fix this or make it better.

CNN’s Lauren Mascarenhas, Jamiel Lynch, Sara Smart, Josh Campbell, Chris Boyette, Curt Devine, Casey Tolan, Isabelle Chapman, Allison Gordon, Nouran Salahieh, Pamela Brown, Allison Gordon, Haley Brtizky, Hannah Rabinowitz and Joe Sutton contributed to this report.

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During manhunt for suspect in Maine shooting authorities twice converge on last known residence