This story was reported by Jess Bidgood, Mike Damiano, Niki Griswold, Samantha J. Gross, Amanda Kaufman, Daniel Kool, Hanna Krueger, Jackie Kucinich, Sarah L. Ryley, Ivy Scott, Sabrina Shankman, Nick Stoico, Milton J. Valencia, and Randy Vazquez. It was written by Damiano.
LISBON, Maine — The frantic search for the man accused of killing 18 people in Lewiston ended Friday when authorities found his body in neighboring Lisbon, Governor Janet Mills said at a Friday night press conference.
The suspect, Robert R. Card II, died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, Maine Public Safety Commissioner Michael Sauschuck said.
“Robert Card is dead,” the governor announced at the beginning of the press conference.
“Tonight, the city of Lewiston and the state of Maine begin to move forward on what will be a long and difficult road to healing,” she said. “But we will heal. Together.”
David St. Pierre, chief of police in Lewiston, told the public that “the threat is over” now that Card’s body has been found.
Sauschuck said the body was found at 7:45 p.m., but many other questions remained unanswered, including when exactly Card died. “A lot of work that needs to be done with the medical examiner’s office,” he said.
Officials also declined to describe where Card’s body was found. Earlier Friday, Sauschuck declined to discuss the contents of a note written by Card that police found after the shootings.
A law enforcement source close to the investigation said Card’s body was found near a recycling center. Leo Madden, owner of Maine Recycling, confirmed Friday night that Card had worked at the plant.
“He was a regular employee, nothing out of the ordinary, did nothing to make you think any different,” he said. Card recently stopped working at the plant, Madden added, although he was unsure of “whether he left of his own volition or whether he was fired.”
Earlier Friday, officials had lifted a shelter-in-place order that had been in effect in Lewiston since the shootings Wednesday evening at a bowling alley and a downtown bar. But they said hunting would be prohibited as the search continued, despite the scheduled opening of Maine’s rifle hunting season Saturday. On Friday, they lifted that restriction after Card’s body was found.
“The search is over for Mr. Card. The caution is over. Hunting may resume,” said a text message alert sent to residents before 11 p.m.
“Tonight, we’re grateful that Lewiston and surrounding communities are safe after spending excruciating days hiding in their homes,” President Biden said in a statement.
“This has been a tragic two days — not just for Lewiston, Maine, but for our entire country,” Biden added. “Once again, an American community and American families have been devastated by gun violence.”
The discovery of Card’s body was a macabre end to a search that had involved hundreds of local and federal investigators who deployed boats, divers, and aircraft to find Card, a US Army reservist from Bowdoin.
In Lewiston, where residents had spent nearly two days living under the shelter-in-place order, the news of Card’s death came as a relief but also provoked, in some, a sense of regret that some haunting questions about the shootings might never be answered and that justice would not be done.
“I was hoping they would find him alive,” said Auburn City Councilor Leroy Walker, whose son Joseph Walker was among the 18 killed in the shootings. “Why he wanted to take the lives of all of these people will never be known. This is the chicken way out.”
On Friday night, shortly after learning Card was dead, three residents of Lisbon stood in a McDonald’s parking lot watching police cars go by. They were relieved, they said. “We’ve been seeing helicopters flying around all the last few days,” said Elizabeth Bean, 18. “It’s been really nerve-wracking.”
“Seeing all the stuff on the news, too, is kind of emotional and confusing,” said Adam Caron, 20. “We were thinking like, he’s in Bowdoin, he’s in Leeds.”
The search for Card began almost immediately after the shootings Wednesday evening. As police responded to the bowling alley and the bar, Card slipped away, setting off an intense manhunt that recalled the efforts to find the Boston Marathon bombers a decade ago.
Police quickly found his car at a boat launch beside the Androscoggin River in Lisbon, which borders Lewiston. But then the trail went cold.
On Thursday, officers from local, state, and federal agencies combed residential neighborhoods, rural properties, and city buildings in central Maine, sometimes chasing errant tips.
At one point, they converged on Lewiston High School with armored vans and officers in battle fatigues. At another, 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.
On Thursday night, officers descended on a Bowdoin home that public records show is owned by Card’s father. A Maine State Police officer ordered anyone inside to come out with their hands empty, while a helicopter lit the ground with a spotlight. But a couple of hours later, the officers left the scene.
By Friday, the focus of the search had returned to the Androscoggin River. Aircraft surveilled the area and divers searched the water. Sauschuck said at a briefing that the officers might find Card’s body there.
Earlier in the search, police found a note written by Card. Sauschuck declined to describe the contents, saying, “When we can release it, we certainly will.”
The revelation of Card’s death came just hours after authorities had publicly identified the victims for the first time.
At a briefing at Lewiston City Hall Friday, Sauschuck read the names aloud.
Among the dead were a married couple in their 70s, Robert and Lucille Violette, as well as a father and son, Bill Young and 14-year-old Aaron.
Arthur Strout, a 42-year-old father of five, was killed while playing pool at Schemengees Bar & Grille, according to his brother, Tyler Barnard.
Tricia Asselin, an employee of Just-In-Time Recreation, the bowling alley where the attack began, had come to the alley on her day off to bowl with family members. She was shot dead after the gunman burst in shortly before 7 p.m. Wednesday.
The first 911 call came at 6:56 p.m. with a caller reporting that a man was shooting inside Just-In-Time. At 7:08 p.m., there was another 911 call: shots fired at Schemengees Bar & Grille.
Both locales are busy social hubs in Lewiston, a city of about 38,000 residents. “They’re places you would go and never think that you might be unsafe,” said Andrea Dibello, an interior designer in Lewiston. At the time of the shootings, a youth bowling league was practicing at Just-In-Time. A cornhole event for the deaf was underway at Schemengees.
Sara Welch was at the bowling alley with her husband and 8-year-old daughter when the shooting began. She grabbed her daughter and another child and fled. She later learned that her daughter’s coach had been killed.
Kyle Rancourt, a Lewiston businessman who, along with other patrons, fled a busy downtown restaurant Wednesday night after they learned a shooter was on the loose, said he had mixed feelings Friday night after learning Card was dead.
“There is a small sense of relief, but I️ wouldn’t say it makes me feel better,” he said. “I️ want to understand how and why this happened and I️ feel that if he was alive that would be more likely. I think the victims and their families, the survivors, and our community deserve to know.”
Senator Angus King of Maine, an independent, released a statement shortly after the authorities announced they had found Card’s body.
”Tonight, I join my neighbors and friends in a communal sense of relief. We are grateful to law enforcement and first responders, for fifty hours of nonstop dedication and determination that brought us this relief,” King said. He added, “It will take a long, long time to process this pain, but Maine people have grit, resolve and heart and we will come together through this difficult grieving period and hope for brighter, calmer days.”
Maine Senator Susan Collins said in a statement late Friday that “Mainers can breathe a collective sigh of relief.”
Read more coverage:
- How the shootings in Lewiston, Maine, unfolded
- Profiles of the lives lost in the Maine mass shootings
- Yvonne Abraham: Why Maine? Why not?
- Deaf community members killed in Maine shooting are mourned: ‘Those lost will never be forgotten’
Mike Damiano can be reached at email@example.com.