Suspect in Maine shooting rampage is dead, sources say
Oct 27, 2023, 7:56 PM | Updated: Oct 28, 2023, 12:00 am
(Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images)
(CNN) — The US Army reservist accused of killing 18 people and injuring 13 more in a shooting rampage across a small Maine city this week is dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, multiple sources tell CNN.
Robert Card, 40, was found dead in the woods near Lisbon, some 8 miles from Lewiston, where Wednesday’s shooting happened, the same sources said.
This follows a two-day manhunt that prompted shelter-in-place-orders and the shutdown of schools and businesses as law enforcement furiously pursued him after Wednesday’s attack at a bowling alley and a restaurant in Lewiston. The attack was the deadliest US mass shooting since last year’s massacre at a school in Uvalde, Texas.
Maine State Police plan to hold a news conference at 10 p.m. ET.
The gun investigators believe Card used to carry out the massacre was purchased legally just days before he was hospitalized and ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation, according to multiple law enforcement sources.
In mid-July, New York State Police were called to Camp Smith in Cortlandt, New York, the military base where Card served, because he was acting “belligerently and possibly intoxicated,” according to a source briefed on the matter. Three law enforcement sources confirm State Police brought Card to a nearby hospital, where he was treated for suspected intoxication and released the next day. When asked for information about the encounter, a New York State Police spokesperson told CNN: “This is an active investigation, and the New York State Police does not comment on active investigations.”
A federal law enforcement source told CNN the army gave Card a “Command Referral” to seek treatment after he told army personnel at Camp Smith Card had been “hearing voices” and had thoughts about “hurting other soldiers.” A National Guard spokesperson confirmed to CNN Card was transported to the nearby Keller Army Community Hospital at the United States Military Academy for “medical evaluation,” after Army Reserve officials reported Card for “behaving erratically.”
Card’s encounters with New York State Police and his National Guard superiors occurred just 10 days after Card had purchased the high-powered rifle at a Maine gun store, according to law enforcement sources. The rifle was a Ruger SFAR chambered for high-powered .308 ammunition, the sources added. The .308 round is favored by military snipers firing at long distances and big game hunters. It is larger and more powerful than the regular ammunition carried in the rifles of soldiers and SWAT teams.
Sources say the weapon found inside Card’s 2013 white Subaru Outback appears to be the same one fired by the gunman at the bowling alley and a local bar, though a ballistics match has not been confirmed. The weapon will be processed by the FBI and ATF for fingerprints and DNA and then run through laboratory testing to determine if the bullets and shell casings found at the scene match.
In the same July purchase, along with the rifle, sources say Card also bought a Beretta 92-F 9mm semi-automatic pistol. It is the standard pistol of the US military.
Search spans land, air, and water
Authorities are continuing an intensive search across southern Maine for the mass shooting suspect, with divers expected to join the effort Saturday to scour the river near where his car was found.
Starting Saturday, additional dive teams from Maine and other states will join the search in the Androscoggin River, Maine Public Safety Commissioner Michael Sauschuck said Friday.
Part of the reason why the manhunt has shifted to include the water is a note left by the suspect and found by authorities, a law enforcement official told CNN. The source said the message suggested Card didn’t expect to be alive when the note was found and could be akin to a suicide note.
The note essentially gave information to others about where things could be found and how things could be disposed of – ultimately suggesting Card would no longer be alive when the note was found or read, the official said.
Still, investigators have warned residents Card should be considered armed and dangerous. And while the manhunt for him intensifies, communities grieving the deaths of 18 people in the tranquil city of Lewiston are now riddled with anxiety.
Two days after the gunman shot up a bowling alley and a bar, authorities have urged residents across a 700-square-mile area to “be vigilant” as authorities race to find the suspect. Investigators have received more than 530 tips from the public, the public safety commissioner said Friday.
“All possibilities are open to us,” said Sauschuck Friday afternoon when asked if it was possible that the suspect had escaped on a boat or in a second vehicle unknown to authorities.
He added law enforcement hadn’t made any sightings of Card since the shooting and they did not know how many weapons he might have.
A CNN team saw officers surrounding a greenhouse late Friday morning at Springworks Farm in Lisbon, which is less than a mile from a boat launch where Card’s vehicle was found. By around noon, officers had cleared the scene.
Air assets will also be deployed to help the divers look for evidence, the public safety commissioner said.
Despite a concentration of resources in the river area near the town of Lisbon, Card’s escape path remains unclear. “I’m not saying we know the suspect is in the water,” Sauschuck said.
Investigators were expected to return to Card’s home on Friday, hours after law enforcement officers surrounded the home Thursday night and ordered any occupants to come out. It’s not clear whether anyone was inside.
Investigators have recovered a cell phone that belonged to Card, a law enforcement official said Friday. It adds to the challenges for investigators, who routinely track cell phones to find suspects. It’s not clear whether Card is carrying another phone.
Investigators have also found a note left by the suspect, though it doesn’t reveal a motive, the law enforcement official said.
While the motive for the massacre remains uncertain, a key theory has emerged in the investigation, law enforcement sources say.
Card recently broke up with a longtime girlfriend, and investigators are pursuing the theory Card went to the bowling alley and the bar because they were places the couple used to frequent, law enforcement sources told CNN’s John Miller.
Investigators believe the ex-girlfriend had signed up to play in a tournament at the bar Wednesday night, the sources said. According to the Facebook page for Schemengees Bar and Grill, Wednesday is “Industry Night,” which draws employees from other bars and restaurants in the Lewiston area.
The massacre in Maine is the deadliest of at least 566 mass shootings in the US so far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. With 18 victims killed, the mass shooting is also the deadliest since the Uvalde massacre in May 2022, when 21 people were gunned down at a Texas elementary school.
How the terror unfolded
The horror began around 7 p.m. Wednesday in Lewiston, where authorities say Card opened fire at Just-in-Time Recreation and then later at Schemengees Bar & Grille. In addition to the 18 people killed, 13 others were injured, Gov. Janet Mills said Thursday.
Police were on the scene within just minutes of 911 calls made from the shooting locations.
The shooting and subsequent manhunt spurred shelter-in-place orders for Androscoggin and northern Sagadahoc counties, which encompass Lewiston and the nearby Auburn and Lisbon communities. The orders were lifted Friday afternoon.
“Nerves are rattled right now – (I’m) keeping an eye on the woods,” said Cory, a Lisbon resident and father of a 10-year-old daughter. “Seeing the cops coming around here, that makes me feel a million times better.”
Earlier Thursday, investigators executed a search warrant at the home, looking for computers, notes, weapons and any evidence that might indicate a plan for the shootings, law enforcement sources told CNN.
The suspect’s car was found abandoned some 8 miles from Lewiston in Lisbon, authorities said.
Authorities are expected to return to Bowdoin to continue investigating Friday, Maine Department of Public Safety spokesperson Shannon Moss said.
The search for Card could be complicated by his background in combat training. Card is a certified firearms instructor and a member of the US Army Reserve, law enforcement officials in Maine told CNN.
Katherine Schweit, a former FBI senior official, said Card may have an advantage.
“He’s in his own backyard, and we’re coming into his own backyard to try to find him in a game of hide and seek. He knows what he’s looking for and where he’s going to go,” Schweit told CNN’s Kaitlan Collins on Thursday.
“He has a plan, and law enforcement has to follow those trails wherever they can find them until he makes a decision to stop. So, if he keeps going, that’s just what we’re facing.”
A ‘hero’ and a pioneer in the deaf community are among those killed
The 18 victims gunned down range in age from 14 to 76 years old and include a young father and a heroic bowling alley employee.
Tricia Asselin, 53, was a mom and a part-time employee at the bowling alley who was with her family bowling recreationally when the gunfire erupted, her brother DJ Johnson said.
“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. “That was just her. She wasn’t going to run. She was going to try and help.”
Asselin’s sister, Bobbi Nichols, was also at the bowling alley when gunfire erupted. Nichols said she ran as far as she could before finally reaching a fence and some trees, which she and others hid behind. Two hours later, she learned her sister was killed trying to call 911.
“When she called 911 to save everybody, she lost her life because of it,” Nichols said. “She was a hero.”
Bryan MacFarlane was playing in a cornhole tournament at the restaurant when he was killed, his sister Keri Brooks told CNN. MacFarlane, part of the local deaf community, typically went to Schemengees on Wednesdays, when other deaf people gather to play the game, Brooks said. He leaves behind his mother and his sister.
“I grew up in Maine and the deaf community is a tight-knit community,” Brooks said. “Not only was my brother slain, but my friends were too.”
MacFarlane, 40, was one of the first deaf people in Vermont to get his commercial trucking driver’s license, Brooks said.
Peyton Brewer-Ross also was at the cornhole tournament when he was fatally shot, according to his brother Ralph Brewer. He enjoyed playing the game and spending time with friends at the restaurant.
Brewer-Ross was a father of two children and “loved being a dad more than anything else,” his brother said, adding he had just celebrated his daughter’s second birthday a couple of weeks ago.
“She woke up telling her mom, Rachel (Sloat), ‘Where’s daddy, where’s daddy?’” Brewer said. “At 2 years old, she isn’t going to remember any of this, but in the same breath, she isn’t going to have her dad be there the rest of her life.”
Authorities identified all 18 of the victims at a Friday afternoon news conference and said all their families had been notified.
A fellow Army Reserve member said Card was a skilled marksman
Card is a petroleum supply specialist in the Army Reserve and first enlisted in 2002, according to records provided by the Army.
Even though he’s a certified firearms instructor, law enforcement officials told CNN, his time in the Army did not include training as a firearms instructor “nor did he serve in that capacity for the Army,” spokesperson Bryce Dubee said in a statement to CNN.
Still, Card had extensive training, including land navigation, making him “very comfortable in the woods,” said Clifford Steeves, who told CNN he knew Card when they both served in the Army Reserve.
He said Card is a skilled marksman who was one of the best shooters in his unit.
Investigators searched the suspect’s car Thursday and recovered a .308-caliber AR15 rifle. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will conduct tests to determine whether the gun can be matched to bullets and shell casings recovered at the two shooting scenes.
Authorities executed at least three search warrants Thursday on Card’s vehicle, which have helped guide their search procedures Friday, a law enforcement official said.
Steeves met Card in the early 2000s when they served together and knew him until about a decade ago, he said. Steeves said he didn’t notice any concerning behavior from Card, who he described as an “outdoors type of guy.”
“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.”
Katie O’Neill, Card’s sister-in-law, told CNN he didn’t have a long history of mental health challenges.
“This is something that was an acute episode. This is not who he is,” O’Neill said, referring to his July hospitalization. “He is not someone who has had mental health issues for his lifetime or anything like that.”
While investigators scramble and victims’ families grieve, thousands of residents in southern Maine have also been affected.
For a second day, many schools, grocery stores and other businesses were closed Friday as hundreds of law enforcement officers swarmed the terrain in pursuit of Card.
On Friday evening, state public safety commissioner Sauschuck announced that they would lift the shelter-in-place order but still recommended residents remain vigilant. He said businesses could decide whether they’d like to open or close amid the ongoing search.
Sauschuck also said that although the Maine rifle hunting season will open to state residents on Saturday, the popular sport will be prohibited in the towns of Lewiston, Lisbon, Bowdoin, and Monmouth until further notice.
The Maine rifle hunting season will open to state residents on Saturday, the public safety commissioner said Friday evening. But hunting will be prohibited in the towns of Lewiston, Lisbon, Bowdoin and Monmouth until further notice.
Sauschuck added that some communities may hear gunshots from time to time in certain areas because some people will be hunting.
Hunting is “a big deal in Maine,” the state’s public safety commissioner said earlier Friday. “It may not be a big deal to a lot of people from other communities, but we know what that’s going to look like.”
Lewiston Mayor Carl l. Sheline described the residents of Lewiston as “strong, determined, and fearless” in an interview with CNN.
“Lewiston is a very safe city. I understand what happened last night is certainly – you know, it’s surreal for it to be happening here,” he said. “But Lewiston is strong. Lewiston is – we have grit and I have no doubt that we will be okay.”
CNN’s Shimon Prokupecz, Andy Rose, Travis Nichols, Amanda Jackson, David Williams, Caroll Alvarado, Eric Levenson, Maria Santana, Haley Brtizky, Joe Sutton, Sara Smart, Brian Todd, Evan Perez, Macie Goldfarb, Maria Sole Campinoti, Josh Campbell, Chris Boyette, Sara Smart, and Zoe Sottile contributed to this report.
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