This story was reported by Tonya Alanez, Travis Andersen, Spencer Buell, Hilary Burns, Mike Damiano, John R. Ellement, Samantha J. Gross, Hanna Krueger, Daniel Kool, Maeve Lawler, Sarah Ryley, Ivy Scott, Sabrina Shankman, and Randy Vazquez. It was written by Damiano.
BOWDOIN, Maine — The manhunt for the suspect in Maine’s deadliest mass shooting stretched into a second night Thursday, as legions of police combed through southern Maine communities that had the feel of ghost towns, with tens of thousands of residents remaining locked down in their homes.
After searching residential neighborhoods, city buildings, and rural waterways for nearly 24 hours, a large force of police descended Thursday night on a home in Bowdoin owned by the father of Robert R. Card II, a US Army Reserve sergeant accused of killing 18 people and wounding 13 more in Lewiston.
Around 7:20 p.m., an officer who identified himself as a Maine State Police official, issued demands through a loudspeaker outside the home..
“We know you’re inside. We don’t want anyone else to get hurt,” the officer could be heard saying at one point. “I can guarantee your safety if you come out of the house now with nothing in your hands,” he said at another point.
A helicopter circled overhead, scanning with a spotlight. But no one exited the home. Within a couple of hours, the police officers dispersed. There was no sign of Card.
Card has been in the Army Reserve for nearly 21 years and is currently assigned as a petroleum supply specialist, the Army said Thursday. He holds the rank of sergeant first class and has an active duty military identification card that grants him access to military facilities in Maine. He has never been deployed in combat, the Army said.
The police presence at the Card family home was only the latest event in a desperate search for the alleged killer, which has brought life here to a grinding halt, as Lewiston, the state’s second largest city, and Auburn entered their second night under shelter-in-place orders.
Among the sites searched was a boat launch in Lisbon, Maine, where police had found Card’s white Subaru Outback. They converged on Lewiston High School with armored vans and officers in battle fatigues. At one point, police searched a Lewiston parking garage, with rifles held to their shoulders and flashlights illuminating their path, after receiving an unfounded tip of a man with a gun.
Card “could be anywhere at this point,” said Kenneth Gray, a retired FBI special agent and a senior lecturer at the University of New Haven’s Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences. “He could be in Canada. He could be down in Massachusetts. He could be anywhere in the Northeast.”
At a press briefing at Lewiston City Hall Thursday evening, Mayor Carl L. Sheline said the city of about 38,000 residents would remain under a shelter-in-place order, a night after the shootings at two downtown locales: a bowling alley and a bar.
Few of the victims have been publicly identified by authorities so far. Bodies of some of the victims were not removed from the crime scenes until midday Thursday. Later, relatives and friends began to confirm the identities of several.
With schools and businesses closed, residents hunkered down, sharing information on group text messages and on social media.
The city had become a “ghost town,” said Kyle Rancourt, a businessman who lives near downtown. “There are no cars, no people. Nothing.” The only sound was the whir of a low-flying police helicopter that passed by every hour or so, he said.
The eerie quiet followed a night of chaos.
Around 7 p.m. Wednesday, a 911 caller reported that a man was shooting inside Just-In-Time Recreation, a bowling alley in Lewiston that was hosting its weekly youth bowling league, Maine State Police Colonel William G. Ross said at a Thursday briefing. Then, at 7:08 p.m., more calls came in, this time reporting an active shooter at a bar about 4 miles away, Ross said.
Sara Welch was at the bowling alley with her husband and 8-year-old daughter for a children’s league practice. She heard what sounded like the pop of a balloon. Then, “We saw someone fall.”
Welch said she grabbed her daughter and another child and fled. She later learned that her daughter’s coach, whom she declined to name, was killed.
The coach was “the happiest person,” she said. “Just truly humble.”
News of the shooting reached Rancourt while he ate dinner with friends at a downtown restaurant. As he and his wife raced home to take shelter, they saw police cars, fire trucks, and ambulances speeding through town with their sirens blaring.
“They were seemingly going in all directions,” he said. “It felt like chaos in the city.”
Soon, emergency vehicles, including helicopter ambulances, converged on Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston. The hospital said Wednesday night that it was dealing with a “mass casualty incident.” John Alexander, chief medical officer of Central Maine Healthcare, said more than 100 off-duty employees came in to support the doctors and nurses already on call.
Seven of the victims were killed at the bowling alley and eight were killed at the bar, Schemengees Bar & Grille, Ross, of the Maine State Police, said. Three others died at the hospital.
Von Scott, of Auburn, said he heard the news of the attack at Schemengees almost immediately after it occurred. “A good friend of mine knows three people who got shot,” he said.
The Deaf Community of Maine held a vigil online for four people who were killed in the shootings. About 160 people, many from outside Maine, lit candles and participated in a moment of silence for each victim. Earlier Thursday, American Deaf Cornhole, a group that organizes tournaments for the game, issued a statement expressing condolences for “our deaf cornhole players who lost their family/friends” in the shooting at Schemengees.
At an earlier briefing Thursday, Ross said an arrest warrant for Card was active, charging him with eight counts of murder. More murder counts were likely be added as additional victims were identified, he said.
Numerous federal and local law enforcement agencies are involved in the manhunt, including the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Drug Enforcement Administration, Senator Susan Collins of Maine said.
Additionally, the US Coast Guard said it had dispatched a boat and an aircraft to participate in the search.
As the search unfolded, residents desperately searched for loved ones and, as the day progressed, received devastating news as authorities identified victims.
In an interview with NBC News, Auburn city council member Leroy Walker said his son, Joey Walker, had been killed at Schemengees. Leroy Walker said he’d been told that his son, who was a manager at the bar, had been killed after trying to stop the shooter with a knife.
”He died as a hero,” Walker said.
Earlier Thursday, residents gathered at a school in Auburn, a neighboring town, where authorities set up a “reunification center.”
Brenda Hathaway, eight months pregnant with a toddler by her side, paced back and forth on the phone. Hathaway, 38, said her husband, Maxx, was at the bar at the time of the shooting and was still missing.
She had been at the bar with him earlier in the evening and wanted to ask other patrons if they had seen him. “But I would have no idea how to reach them,” she said.
At the bar Thursday morning, police ducked under tape cordoning off the area. Shortly after 9:30, officers wheeled what appeared to be a body on a stretcher and loaded it into a black van. A second figure wrapped in black followed soon after, before the back doors of the van were closed.
At a convenience store near the hospital, customers talked about the massacre, swapping rumors of death counts and motives. Dale Blackman, who lives near the hospital, said one of the victims was his adult daughter’s close friend.
“All I know is that she got a phone call from the girl’s mom,” Blackman told a reporter. He said that he was still processing the previous night’s events and that he was shocked that such a tragedy could unfold so close to home.
Schools on Thursday were closed in Lewiston and surrounding towns, including Auburn, Bowdoin, and Lisbon. Auburn was also under a shelter-in-place order.
Bates College in Lewiston remained in a lockdown status Thursday. Some students had spent the night in the library and a dining hall after the campus was shut down as news of the shooting spread, students said.
“Sandy Hook happened when I was in elementary school, so all of my life I have been preparing for this,” said Hannah Orton, a senior from Littleton, Mass., who was in the dining hall with teammates from the women’s club ice hockey team when the campus went into lockdown. The college said that no students were among the victims. A university employee was injured and is expected to recover.
Read more coverage:
- For some in Maine, Lewiston mass shootings are reason to turn toward guns, not away
- Who is suspect Robert Card? This is what records tell us.
- A high-tech manhunt is underway for the Maine shooter. Here’s what that might look like.
- See photos from Lewiston, Maine, following mass shootings
Mike Damiano can be reached at email@example.com.