Shocked and frightened Maine residents stayed indoors for a second night as hundreds of heavily armed police and FBI agents searched intensively for Robert Card, the Army reservist who fatally shot 18 people at a bowling alley and bar in worst mass killing in the history of the state.
Much of Thursday's investigation focused on a property owned by one of Card's relatives in rural Bowdoin, where trucks and vans filled with armed agents from the FBI and other agencies eventually surrounded a home. Card and anyone else inside had been repeatedly ordered to surrender.
“You must go out now with nothing in your hands. Your hands in the air,” police said over a loudspeaker. In most cases, when police execute warrants — even for suspects wanted for violent crimes — they move quickly to enter the home.
But hours later, after repeated calls and an investigation, authorities backed off — and it was still unclear if Card had ever been at the location, state police said.
Richard Goddard, who lives on the street where the search took place, knows the Cart family. Robert Card, who is four years younger, knows the terrain well, Goddard said.
“This is his pitch. He grew up here,” he said. “He knows every ledge to hide behind, every thicket.”
Several homes were searched and every lead pursued in the hunt for Card, a 40-year-old trained firearms instructor. Authorities said he should be considered armed and dangerous and not to be approached.
Card is suspected of opening fire with at least one rifle at a bar and bowling alley Wednesday in Lewiston, which is about 15 miles (24 kilometers) from Bowdoin and is Maine's second-largest city. The afternoon shootings killed 18 people and wounded 13 others, with three people in critical condition, authorities said.
Authorities have not said how many weapons were used or how they were obtained.
Schools, clinics and grocery stores were closed and people stayed behind locked doors in towns within 50 miles of the shooting scenes. Maine's largest city, Portland, closed its public buildings while Canada Border Services Agency issued an “armed and dangerous” warning to its officers stationed along the US border.
Roads in Lewiston and surrounding communities were virtually deserted late Thursday night. The occasional police truck or patrol passed through neighborhoods dotted with illuminated giant pumpkins and ghosts for Halloween.
Schools in Lewiston were to remain closed Friday, while those in Portland would decide in the morning whether to open. Bates College in Lewiston also canceled classes Friday and postponed the inauguration of the school's first black president.
April Stevens lives in the same neighborhood where one of the shootings happened. She turned on all her lights one night and locked her doors. He knew that someone was killed in the bar and another person was injured that required surgery.
“We're praying for everyone,” Stevens said through tears.
The attacks stunned a state of just 1.3 million people that has one of the lowest homicide rates in the country: 29 murders in all of 2022.
Maine Gov. Janet Mills vowed to do whatever it takes to find Card and “hold accountable whoever is responsible for this atrocity … and seek full justice for the victims and their families.”
As authorities searched for Card, details emerged about his recent behavior. Card underwent a mental health evaluation in mid-July after he began acting erratically while in his reserve regiment, a U.S. official told The Associated Press.
A bulletin sent to police around the country after the attack said Card had been committed to a mental health facility for two weeks last summer after “hearing screams and threats to shoot” at a military base.
Maine does not require permits to carry guns, and the state has a long-standing culture of gun ownership tied to its traditions of hunting and shooting sports. With strong support for gun rights in mind, lawmakers passed a “yellow flag” law in 2019 that would require police to seek a medical evaluation of anyone believed to be dangerous before attempting to take away their weapons. But critics charged that it was a weaker version of the stricter “red flag” laws that many other states have adopted.
A neighbor, Dave Letarte, said Card's family let them hunt deer on their property and were polite, although Letarte said he noticed Card appeared to be having mental issues for a while.
“People have problems, but you don't expect them to go off the deep end like that,” Letarte said. “When we saw it on the news last night, I was shocked.”
A phone number listed for the Card in public records was not in service. A woman who answered a phone number for one of Card's relatives said Thursday afternoon that the family was assisting the FBI. She did not give her name or additional information.
Eight murder warrants were issued for Card after authorities identified eight of the victims, police said. Ten others will likely be extradited once the names of the remaining dead are confirmed, Maine State Police Col. William Ross said.
Three of the 13 people injured in the shooting are in critical condition and five are hospitalized but stable, Maine Medical Center officials said.
The attack began at Just-In-Time Recreation, where the children's bowling league was being held, just before 7pm on Wednesday.
Patrick Pullen was supposed to be at the bowling center with his 15-year-old son, who is in a league he practices on Wednesday. They stayed home, but he estimates there were probably several dozen young bowlers, ages 4 to 18, along with their parents, at the facility. Pullen's brother was there, he said, herding some of the children outside when the shooting started.
“He's pretty excited,” Pullen said Thursday. “And it's just sinking in today, like, wow, I was so close to being there. And a lot of the people who were hurt, I know.”
Less than 15 minutes later, multiple 911 calls began coming in from Schemengees Bar and Grille a few miles away.
The search for the Card covered both land and water. The Coast Guard sent a patrol boat Thursday morning along the Kennebec River, but after hours of searching, they found “nothing out of the ordinary,” said Chief Petty Officer Ryan Smith, who is in charge of the Coast Guard's Boothbay Harbor Station.
A car believed to belong to Card was recovered from a boat launch in Lisbon Township near the Androscoggin River, which connects to the Kennebec, and Card's 15-foot (4.5-meter) boat remains unaccounted for, Smith said.
In many previous mass shootings in the US, the suspect was found—either dead or alive—within minutes. But Card was still free a full day after the shootings.
Lewiston was mostly empty on an unseasonably warm fall Thursday. Alternating message boards reminded people to stay behind locked doors.
At Bates College, students stayed in dormitories with the blinds closed, said Diana Florence, whose son is a sophomore. She has a daughter who is a senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which was locked down twice last month after a shooting and a man with a gun.
“I couldn't believe it – that this is happening again. It's happening to my son after it just happened to my daughter,” he said in a phone interview Thursday.
The shooting marks the 36th mass killing in the United States this year, according to a database maintained by the Associated Press and USA Today in partnership with Northeastern University.
Associated Press reporters Patrick Whittle in Portland, Maine. Robert Bukaty in Lewiston, Maine; Darlene Superville and Lolita Baldor in Washington, DC? Michael Casey in Boston; Kathy McCormack in Concord, New Hampshire. Associated Press reporter Rhonda Shafner in New York. and Jeffrey Collins in Columbia, South Carolina, contributed to this report.