A man shot and killed at least 16 people at a restaurant and bowling alley in Lewiston, Maine, on Wednesday and then fled into the night, prompting a massive search by hundreds of officers as frightened residents remained locked down. in their homes.
A police bulletin identified Robert Card, 40, as a person of interest in the attack that caused terrified bowlers to hide behind the pins when gunshots were heard around 7 p.m. Card was described as a firearms instructor believed to be in the Army Reserve and assigned to training. facility in Saco, Maine.
The document, distributed among law enforcement officials, said Card had been committed to a mental health facility for two weeks in the summer of 2023. It did not provide details about his treatment or condition, but said Card had reported "hearing voices and threats to shoot." “raise” the military base. A phone number listed in public records for Card 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 at Sparetime Recreation, a bowling alley about 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) away.
One bowler, who identified himself only as Brandon, said he heard about 10 gunshots and thought the first was a balloon exploding.
“I had my back to the door. And as soon as I turned around and saw that it wasn't a balloon, but he was holding a gun, I just booked it,” she told The Associated Press.
Brandon said he ran along the alley, sliding toward the pin area and climbing to hide in the machinery. He was among a bus full of survivors who were driven to a high school in the neighboring city of Auburn to meet with family and friends.
“I was putting on my bowling shoes when it started. I have been barefoot for five hours,” she said.
Melinda Small, owner of Legends Sports Bar and Grill, said her staff immediately closed her doors and moved the 25 customers and employees away from the doors after a customer reported hearing about the shooting at the bowling alley less than a quarter away. mile away. Soon, police flooded the road and a police officer finally escorted everyone out of the building.
“Honestly, I'm in shock. “I’m glad my team responded quickly and everyone is safe,” Small said. “But at the same time, my heart is broken for this area and what everyone is facing. “I just feel numb.”
After the shooting, police, many of them armed with rifles, took up positions as the city descended into an eerie silence, punctuated by occasional sirens, as people took shelter in their homes. Schools were closed Thursday in Lewiston, Lisbon and Auburn, as well as city offices in Lewiston.
The Androscoggin County Sheriff's Office posted two photos of the suspect on its Facebook page that showed the shooter entering an establishment with a gun pointed at his shoulder.
Two law enforcement officials told the AP 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.” State police were scheduled to hold a mid-morning news conference Thursday.
The two law enforcement officials said dozens of people had also been injured. The officials were not authorized to publicly discuss details of the ongoing investigation and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.
On its website, Central Maine Medical Center said staff were “reacting to a mass casualty event and a mass shooting” and were coordinating with area hospitals to receive patients. The hospital was closed and police, some armed with rifles, remained at the entrances.
Meanwhile, hospitals as far away as Portland, about 35 miles (56 kilometers) to the south, were on alert for possible victims.
The order for residents and business owners to stay on and off the streets of the city of 37,000 was extended Wednesday night from Lewiston to Lisbon, about 8 miles (13 kilometers) away, after it was found There was a “vehicle of interest,” authorities said. .
Gov. Janet Mills issued a statement echoing instructions for people to shelter in place. She said she had been informed about the situation and that she will remain in close contact with public safety officials.
President Joe Biden spoke by phone with Mills and members of the state Senate and House of Representatives, offering “full federal support in the wake of this horrific attack,” according to a White House statement.
Independent Sen. Angus King of Maine said he was “deeply saddened for the city of Lewiston and all those concerned about their families, friends and neighbors” and was monitoring the situation. King's office said the senator would head directly to his home in Maine on the first possible flight.
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. Hug them.”
Wednesday's death toll was staggering for a state that in 2022 had 29 homicides throughout the year.
Maine does not require permits to carry weapons, and the state has an ancient culture of gun ownership that is tied to its hunting and shooting traditions.
Some recent attempts by gun control advocates to tighten state gun laws have failed. Proposals to require background checks for private gun sales and create a 72-hour waiting period for gun purchases failed earlier this year. Proposals focusing on school safety and banning emergency stockpiles failed in 2019.
State residents have also rejected some attempts to tighten gun laws in Maine. A proposal to require background checks for gun sales failed in a 2016 public vote.