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LEWISTON, Maine – Maine police searched for a US Army reservist on Thursday, October 26, wanted for murder after 18 people were killed and 13 were wounded in shooting attacks at a bowling alley and a bar in the city of Lewiston the previous night.
In an expanding manhunt, police fanned out across southern Maine with an arrest warrant for their main suspect, Robert R. Card, a US Army reservist who law enforcement said had been committed to a mental health facility over the summer. They circulated photographs of a bearded man in a brown hooded sweatshirt and jeans at one of the crime scenes armed with what appeared to be a semi-automatic rifle.
Public school districts in the area canceled classes on Thursday and police urged residents to stay indoors.
“This is a dark day for Maine,” Governor Janet Mills said at a press conference. “Mr. Card is considered armed and dangerous and police advise that Maine people should not approach him under any circumstances.”
Maine State Police found a white SUV they believe Card drove to the town of Lisbon, about 7 miles (11 km) to the southeast, and urged people to remain indoors in both Lewiston and Lisbon. Early Thursday, police also told residents in the town of Bowdoin, about 12 miles east of Lewiston, to shelter in place. Card lives in Bowdoin, according to public records.
There was an eerie quiet in Lewiston and Lisbon on Thursday morning, with almost no cars on the roads and just a few people outside. Many downtown businesses appeared to be closed.
A Maine law enforcement bulletin identified Card, 40, as a trained firearms instructor at the US Army Reserve base in Saco, Maine, who recently said he had been hearing voices and had other mental health issues.
He threatened to shoot up the National Guard base in Saco and was “reported to have been committed to mental health facility for two weeks during summer 2023 and subsequently released,” according to the bulletin from the Maine Information & Analysis Center, a unit of Maine State Police. Reuters could not confirm the details reported in the bulletin.
The US Army said Card was a sergeant and a petroleum supply specialist in the Army Reserve who had never been deployed in combat since enlisting in 2002.
The attacks began shortly before 7 pm at the the Just-In-Time Recreation bowling alley, where one female patron and six males were shot dead, police said, without giving the victims’ ages. A short time later, they received reports of a shooting at Schemengees Bar & Grille Restaurant, about three miles (5 km) away. Seven males were fatally shot dead there, police said. Three victims who were taken to hospitals later died of their injuries.
“In a split second your world gets turn upside down for no good reason,” Schemengees posted on its Facebook page. “How can we make any sense of this.”
Just-In-Time said in a Facebook post that its staff were “devastated for our community.”
“None of this seems real, but unfortunately it is,” it said in the post. “We lost some amazing and whole hearted people from our bowling family and community last night. There are no words to fix this or make it better.”
Jessica Karcher said one of the wounded was her son Justin Karcher, who was shot in the spine and kidneys and was in surgery. He witnessed his father, Jean Karcher, being shot and killed in 2019 during an altercation in a Walmart parking lot, according to Lewiston’s Sun Journal newspaper.
Lewiston is a former textile hub about 35 miles (56 km) north of Maine’s largest city, Portland, and home to about 38,000 people.
Gun regulation in Maine is light
Guns are lightly regulated in Maine, a largely rural state near the northeast border with Canada where about half of all adults live in a household with a gun, according to a 2020 study by RAND Corporation. Maine does not require a permit to buy or carry a gun, and it does not have so-called “red flag” laws seen in some other states that allow law enforcement to temporarily disarm people deemed to be dangerous.
However, at least one federal judge has ruled such laws unconstitutional in light of a landmark 2022 decision by the US Supreme Court that said that the Constitution grants an individual the right to carry weapons in public.
US President Joe Biden has spoken to state officials to offer the federal government’s support and ordered flags to be flown at half-mast until Monday to honor the victims, his office said.
The estimated fatalities would be on par with the annual number of homicides that normally occur in Maine, which has fluctuated between 16 and 29 since 2012, according to Maine State Police.
The number of US shootings in which four or more people were shot has surged since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, with 647 occurring in 2022 and 679 projected to occur in 2023, based on trends as of July, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive.
The deadliest modern US mass shooting on record is the massacre of 58 people by a gunman firing on a Las Vegas country music festival from a high-rise hotel perch in 2017. – Rappler.com