BOWDOIN, Maine — Roughly 3,000 people call this sleepy, tight-knit central Maine town home. And, for most of his life, Robert R. Card II was one of them.
He rose through the public school system, won an award in a third-grade literary contest, made the honor roll in high school, served in the local Army Reserve regiment, threw horseshoes in a local league, and bowled at the alley on Mollison Way in nearby Lewiston.
And then on Wednesday, authorities say, he tore that very community apart with a rifle. He allegedly strode into the Just-In-Time Recreation bowling alley where he used to compete and opened fire on a crowd of locals, including children at youth league practice. Then, police say, he drove 4 miles down Main Street and unleashed another barrage of bullets onto the patrons of Schemengees Bar & Grille Restaurant.
In all, the rampage left 18 people dead and another 13 wounded, making it the deadliest mass shooting of 2023 — a grim superlative for a year marked by staggering gun violence. To the nation, the narrative was all too familiar.
But to this community, so was Card’s face. After all, he is a local himself, part of a longtime central Maine family with deep roots in the region.
“By the time police announced the suspect’s name, locals already know who it is,” Olga Dolgicer, a local innkeeper, said of Card. She said his mental health issues are well-known in the community.
Officials told the Globe those issues flared this summer while Card was training with his Army Reserves regiment. Military commanders phoned the police after the first class sergeant started acting erratically. But he remained in the reserves and returned to live in Bowdoin.
Four months later, he was outside the Mollison Way bowling alley. And 24 hours after the shooting spree, Card had yet to be found.
Schools were closed. Businesses shuttered. Courthouse doors locked. Residents sheltered in place. Police officers from across the region crawled about town. On a backroad stretch of West Road — where Card has a mortgage taken out on a gray split-level home — police officers from the Massachusetts towns of Melrose and Salem blocked traffic. Cameras from out-of-state media crews trained their cameras toward the flashing red-and-blue lights and tactical officers.
But nothing happened. Card remained missing, presumed armed, dangerous, and, according to local and military officials, suffering from mental illness. The stillness of these backwoods — typically a perk of this rural region — took on a haunting, paralyzing quality.
“It is such an eerie kind of quiet because they are still looking for him. We’re all in shock it’s so surreal,” said Donna A. Minchin, who lives near Card’s relatives on Meadow Road. “We all had a hard time sleeping last night.”
Card is named in arrest warrants with eight counts of murder, but that number is expected to increase as authorities continue to identify those he allegedly killed.
The 40-year-old enlisted in the Army in the winter of 2002 while working toward a degree in engineering technology at the University of Maine, according to spokespersons for the branch and college. Card never graduated, instead committing himself to the armed forces, where he worked his way up to the rank of sergeant first class and earned the Army Achievement Medal and the Humanitarian Service Medal. He currently holds the rank of first sergeant and has the military specialty of “petroleum supply specialist.”
Most recently, he was assigned to the Third Battalion, 304th Infantry Regiment in Saco, Maine. While Card was training with this unit at Camp Smith — a military installation operated by the New York Army National Guard — military leaders said they observed Card acting erratically, according to a public affairs officer. Out of concern for his safety, the unit called New York State Police, who transported Card to the Keller Army Community Hospital at the US Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., for medical evaluation.
A bulletin put out by the Maine Information and Analysis Center, an internal database for law enforcement officials, previously stated Wednesday that Card served as a firearms instructor in the Maine Army Reserves. But officials revoked that statement Thursday morning, stating “there is no indication that Card was a firearms instructor in the Maine Army Reserves.”
The updated bulletin said Card had been in a mental health facility for two weeks this summer, and that he had reported “hearing voices and threats to shoot up” the military base. No information was provided about Card’s treatment or diagnosis.
A neighbor of Card’s parents said the suspect’s mental health issues were “pretty well-known in the area.” Officials declined to answer questions during a press conference Thursday about how and when Card was able to obtain a gun.
To date, Card holds an active duty military identification card that grants him access to military facilities in Maine. It is unclear what he was doing recently for work. According to state records, Card was licensed as an electrician’s helper for two years in 2004 and 2006, but let that license lapse. Records indicate that his father, Robert B. Card Sr., holds a master electrician’s license.
League results published in the Sun Journal from the bowling alley show a Robert Card frequently competed during the spring of 2012.
His online presence appears to have been relatively muted. He’d just joined X, formerly known as Twitter, in November 2022. He only followed a handful of users, including Tucker Carlson, Donald Trump, and an extremism and terrorism researcher from the University of Maine. His account — which bore a photo of him smiling and holding a fish — has since been suspended.
The Globe could trace only one Google review to his email, a negative review of a shoddy auto repair. His username, though, offered a grim glance into his perceived military marksmanship.
The moniker? “Oneshot bob.”
Ivy Scott of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
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