A teen bowler, a shipbuilder and a sign language interpreter are among the Maine shooting victims
Oct 30, 2023, 2:30 PM
(AP Photo/ Jake Bleiberg)
The 18 people killed in two mass shootings in Lewiston, Maine, included a 14-year-old bowler, a shipbuilder who loved playing the game of cornhole and a sign language interpreter.
According to Maine State Police, seven people died Wednesday night at Just-In-Time Recreation bowling alley. Six were male and one was female. Eight more people, all male, died at Schemengees Bar and Grille. Three others died after being taken to hospitals.
The victims were remembered Sunday evening during a standing-room-only vigil at the Lewiston basilica that was attended by Gov. Janet Mills and the state’s entire congressional delegation. A bell tolled after each name was read aloud.
William Brackett, who went by Billy, didn’t let being deaf interfere with anything he wanted to do, including playing multiple sports, said his father, also named William Brackett.
Basketball, soccer, baseball, softball, he loved them all. As a teenager, he served as a batboy for a high school baseball team and would stand in the dugout teaching the players sign language. As an adult, he taught children how to play basketball in a summer recreation program.
“He was just a gentle person. He was big and rugged and I guess maybe that’s why all the little kids loved him,” his father said. “They swarmed to a bigger person. Maybe they thought, ‘He’ll be our protector.’”
More recently, Billy, 48, was teaching his young daughter how to fish.
“The attention span of a 2½-year-old isn’t great, and if she got a fish, she didn’t want to touch it. But he was teaching her, and she was paying attention,” his father said.
“That’s the way he was,” he said. “If it was your kid, he’d be doing the same thing.”
At Sunday’s vigil, Kevin Bohlin, a deaf community leader, signed Brackett’s name along with the three other deaf Mainers who were killed. Bohlin demonstrated the ASL sign for “I love you” and asked mourners to repeat it to each other.
Bill and Aaron Young
Bill Young, 44, of Winthrop, had taken his 14-year-old son, Aaron, to play in a youth bowling league at Just-in-Time Recreation. Both died.
“Bill was a man dedicated to his family,” his cousin, Kim McConville, told The Associated Press via social media. “He was a master auto mechanic. Always trying to be a funny guy.”
Aaron was an avid bowler who had received recognition from the youth league.
In a statement, the superintendent of Winthrop Public Schools confirmed that a high school freshman and his dad were among those killed. Jim Hodgkin’s statement said an uncle of another high school student was also killed.
“This is tremendous tragedy for our area, our town, our students, and everyone. This is uncharted territory,” Hodgkin said.
Peyton Brewer-Ross was a dedicated pipefitter at Bath Iron Works who left behind a partner, young daughter and friends, members of his union said.
Brewer-Ross, of Bath, was doing something he loved — playing cornhole and enjoying friends — when he was shot to death, his brother said.
“He was a character. He didn’t meet anyone he didn’t like,” Wellman Brewer said of his younger brother.
Brewer-Ross loved the game of cornhole so much that he brought out the angled boards and beanbags at family gatherings, his brother said.
He said his fun-loving brother, a shipbuilder at Bath Iron Works, was the life of the party.
“He has a Randy ‘Macho Man’ Savage Slim Jim jacket that he wore,” Brewer said, noting the apparel choice that originated with a flamboyant professional wrestler. “Not too many people could pull that off.”
Brewer-Ross and his fiancé, Rachael, had just celebrated the second birthday of their daughter, Elle, two weeks earlier.
“There’s a hole in our family now where he used to be. And it’s going to hurt for a while,” Wellman Brewer said.
Joshua Seal, a sign language interpreter, was shot and killed while playing in a cornhole tournament at Schemengees Bar with other members of the deaf community.
His wife, Elizabeth Seal, said in a Facebook post that he was “a wonderful husband, my best friend, and my soulmate. He was also a wonderful boss, an incredible interpreter, a great friend, a loving son, brother, uncle, and grandson.”
“It is with a heavy heart that I share with you all that Joshua Seal has passed away… no, he was murdered, in the 10/25 shooting in Lewiston. It still feels surreal,” she wrote.
Robert and Luceille Violette
Retiree Bob Violette, 76, and his wife Luceille, 73, died in the shootings. Bob devoted himself to his volunteer job coaching the youth bowling league that was practicing that night, said Patrick Poulin, whose teenage son has been a member for three years.
“He’s taught so many people over the years how to bowl, and he wasn’t getting paid,” he said. “We’ve really been focused on trying to keep the sport alive, and Bob was really an integral part of that.”
Poulin described him as unfailingly approachable and caring.
“Sometimes kids are having a hard time for whatever reason, discouraged or something,” he said. “He was great at picking them up and getting them to move along from that issue and get things going in the right direction.”
Two weeks ago, Poulin was at the bowling center with his son and offered him some tips. His son resisted, but eventually took the advice and bowled a great game.
“You gave him some good instructions, so when are you going to get out here and coach with me?” Violette asked him.
Poulin replied that he’d have to think about it. Asked Thursday if he’d consider it now, he said, “Someone’s got to step back in.”
Michael Deslauriers’ father told CBS News that his son was one of those killed at Just-In-Time Recreation. His father, who shares the same name, said his son and a friend both were killed as they charged at the shooter after making sure their wives and several children were safe.
Joe Walker was the bar manager at Schemengees Bar and Grille. His father, Auburn City Councilor Leroy Walker, told NBC News on Thursday that his son was shot twice in the stomach as he went after the shooter with a butcher knife.
“He died as a hero,” he said.
On Sunday, Walker was greeting people at a trick-or-treat event hosted by an organization he leads. He smiled broadly when the kids hugged him, and accepted hugs from community members.
But he became emotional when he spoke of his son, Joseph, who normally would’ve joined him at the event.
“It’s been a tough few days, trust me. The heart doesn’t stop bleeding,” he said. “I miss him every minute. I miss him more every day.”
Tricia Asselin worked part time at the Just-in-Time Recreation bowling alley. She had Wednesday night off, but went bowling with her sister.
When she realized shots were being fired inside the bowling alley, Asselin, 53, went to call 911, but was shot and killed, relatives said.
Asselin “had a great passion for life,” and was a loving mother, “the most caring person there was,” her mother, Alicia Lachance, told NBC News.
Asselin’s cousin, Tammy Asselin, was at the bowling alley with her own daughter, Toni, who played in a youth bowling league on Wednesdays. They knew Tricia worked there, but they hadn’t seen her yet that night.
When she heard the gunfire, Tammy Asselin couldn’t find her daughter and then tripped on some bowling bags and fell. Tammy and others tried to hide, getting a table to flip over and act as a wall near a corner booth. Her daughter had gotten to an exit and was safe, she found later.
“I never prayed so hard in my life as I did that night,” she said.
She was later told that Tricia didn’t make it. She remembered her cousin as “the most fun person. She was always happy-go-lucky,” according to ABC News.
Arthur Strout was playing pool with his father at the bar. His son wanted to stay and play a couple more games, but his father, Arthur Barnard, left shortly before the shooting.
“I said, ‘OK,’ and he said ‘I love you,’ because all my kids tell me that every time we see each other,” Barnard told CBS News. “Ten minutes later, I get a phone call.”
Strout, 42, and his wife, Kristy, had a blended family of five children.
“He’s helped me raise my children since they were very, very little,” Kristy Strout told CBS. “His daughter’s only 13 and without a dad because of all of this. Because of one man’s choices, my daughter has to grow up without a father.”
Strout was a family-oriented person who loved playing pool and cooking Italian food, Bonnie Caron, the mother of his 23-year-old son, told the AP.
“He was murdered doing something he loved,” Caron said. “He was just all about having fun.”
Bryan McFarlane, 41, a commercial truck driver and a member of the deaf community, was playing a cornhole tournament at the bar.
McFarlane grew up in Maine. He spent a lot of time in Vermont, where he became one of the first deaf people in the state to get a commercial truck driver’s license, according to his sister, Keri Brooks. A favorite companion on the road was his dog, M&M, named after his favorite candy.
McFarlane would go to the bar every Wednesday to play cornhole, Brooks said.
“He was so dependable,” Brooks, who is also deaf, told WCSH-TV. “He just loved socializing with the deaf community, with his friends. “He would give the shirt off of his back to anybody.”
Stephen Vozzella, 45, a U.S. Postal Service worker and a member of a deaf cornhole league, was playing with friends at the bar.
“He had much more life to live before it was stolen from him in an all-too-common senseless act of gun violence,” Brian Renfroe, the president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, said in a statement. Vozzella was a member of branch 241 of the labor union.
Vozzella also was a member of New England Deaf Cornhole, which planned to have a moment of silence for him at an upcoming tournanent in November. The organization said he brought excitement and a huge smile to the game.
Thomas Conrad, 34, worked as general manager at the bowling alley.
A co-worker said what he remembers most about Conrad is “his love of the kids.”
“Every kid that came in, he wanted to make sure they had the best time they ever did at the bowling alley,” Josh D’Angelos told WGME-TV. D’Angelos was not working that night.
Organizers of a fundraiser for his family said Conrad served in the U.S. Army, including tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
This story has been updated to correct the following: one of the victims’ names to Joshua Seal, not Sears; the age of Strout’s son to 23, not 24; and the name of the bowling alley to Just-In-Time Recreation, not Sparetime Recreation.
___ Associated Press researcher Rhonda Shafner and reporters David Sharp, Michelle Smith, Alanna Durkin Richer, Robert Bumsted and Claudia Lauer contributed to this report.