By Gabriella Borter
LEWISTON, Maine (Reuters) -The man suspected of killing 18 people and wounding 13 in a shooting rampage in Lewiston, Maine, was found dead of a likely self-inflicted gunshot wound on Friday, ending a 48-hour manhunt that followed the most lethal episode of gun violence in the state’s history.
The body of Robert R. Card, 40, was discovered in the woods near the neighboring town of Lisbon Falls, near where police found his abandoned vehicle shortly after the shooting spree on Wednesday night.
“He is dead,” Maine Governor Janet Mills told a news conference, thanking the hundreds of officers from various agencies involved in the search.
“Like many people, I am breathing a sigh of relief tonight, knowing that Robert Card is no longer a threat to anyone … Now is the time to heal,” Mills said.
Card died of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound, said Mike Sauschuck, Maine’s Department of Public Safety commissioner.
Officials said the U.S. Army reservist opened fire on his victims Wednesday night, first at the Just-In-Time Recreation bowling alley, and minutes later at Schemengees Bar & Grille Restaurant, which was hosting cornhole beanbag-throwing games.
Officials have not revealed any suspected motive.
The shootings and prolonged manhunt convulsed the normally bustling but serene community of Lewiston, a former textile hub and the second-most populous city in Maine.
Earlier on Friday, Maine State Police lifted an order that had kept tens of thousands of people in their homes while the manhunt continued.
The town lies on the banks of the Androscoggin River about 35 miles (56 km) north of the state’s largest city, Portland, and nearly as far southwest of Maine’s capital, Augusta.
Card, an Army Reserve sergeant from the nearby town of Bowdoin, has been described by authorities as a trained firearms instructor who served as a petroleum supply specialist when on duty at the military reserve base in Saco, Maine.
Law enforcement officials also said he had a history of mental illness and was committed to a psychiatric facility for two weeks during the summer of 2023, after which he was released.
Within hours of Wednesday night’s bloodshed, police circulated surveillance camera photos from one of the crime scenes of a bearded man wearing a brown, hooded sweatshirt and jeans and carrying what appeared to be a semi-automatic rifle.
The initial trail of clues led to Lisbon town, about 7 miles (11 km) to the southeast of Lewiston, where Maine State Police found a white SUV they believed Card used to make his getaway and parked at a boat launch on the river. Public records showed he owned at least one vessel made by Sea-Doo, a company known for its jet ski-style personal watercraft.
Lisbon Falls, where the body was found, is the next town, still along the river.
As part of their search for Card, police trawled the waters of the Androscoggin River with divers and sonar on Friday, and sent teams of officers door-to-door in neighborhood canvasses seeking additional clues and possible eyewitnesses.
VICTIMS IDENTIFIED AND HONORED
Authorities also officially released the names and ages of the victims for the first time, revealing that a cross section of Lewiston people had been killed, including deaf people playing in the beanbag-throwing tournament, a father-and-son pair of bowlers, and a couple aged 76 and 73.
Four of those killed belonged to the deaf community, Sauschuck said, asking television cameras to include the American sign language interpreter at a press conference in their frames. Nine deaf people were playing in a weekly tournament at Schemengees, the sister of one of the victims told the Lewiston Sun Journal.
Among them was Joshua Seal, 36, the director of interpreting services for the Pine Tree Society, a non-profit organization aiding people with disabilities, the Sun Journal reported, citing Noel Sullivan, the group’s president. Seal provided vital interpreting services for people isolated during the coronavirus pandemic, Sullivan said.
Stephen Vozella, 45, was a postal worker and active member of New England Deaf Cornhole, the group said on its Facebook page, adding that a moment of silence would be held at an upcoming tournament.
Bryan MacFarlane, 41, an avid motorcyclist, was also part of the cornhole tournament at Schemengees, his sister Keri Brooks told the Sun Journal.
Bill Young, 44, and his 14-year-old son Aaron were shot and killed while bowling together, Bill’s brother Rob Young told Reuters.
Husband and wife Bob Violette, 76, and Lucille Violette, 73, were also bowling together in a couples league when they were killed, the Sun Journal reported, citing his daughter-in-law, Cassandra Violette.
Tricia Asselin, 53, was a part-time worker at the bowling alley who was trying to call 911 when shot. Joseph Walker, 57, was a manager at Schemengees who stayed on the scene to help even though he could have escaped through a door near his office, his father, Leroy Walker, told Reuters on Friday.
“We were told that he picked up a butcher knife from the bar area where he was a lot of the time standing and went to attack the shooter,” Leroy Walker said of his son, who he called Joey. The gunman then shot Joey, killing him instantly.
(Reporting by Gabriella Borter in Lewiston; Additional reporting by Julia Harte in New York and Rich McKay in Atlanta; Writing by Daniel Trotta and Steve Gorman; Editing by Mark Porter, Jonathan Oatis, David Gregorio, Leslie Adler, William Malard and Raju Gopalakrishnan)