At least 22 dead after Maine gunman sprays 2 businesses with bullets; cops hunting for mentally ill gun expert.
A mass shooter went on a horrifying rampage in Maine Wednesday night, murdering at least 22 people at a bar and a bowling alley and sparking a massive manhunt for the killer, according to law enforcement sources and reports.
More than 50 people were wounded in the two separate shootings in Lewiston, the state’s second-largest city — which was put under a shelter-in-place order following the bloodshed that began just before 7 p.m., police and sources said.
“I still feel like this whole thing is a nightmare,” Kathy Lebel, the co-owner of Schemengees Bar and Grille Restaurant, where at least 14 people were shot, told the Sun Journal.
About four hours after initial reports of the shootings in Lewiston, police identified Robert Card, a 40-year-old trained firearms instructor with past mental health issues, as a person of interest, according to law enforcement sources.
Card, believed to be an Army Reservist stationed out of Saco, Maine, recently reported “hearing voices” and threatened to shoot up the base, according to law enforcement sources.
He was reportedly committed to a mental health facility over the summer and was released after a two-week stay, the sources added.
On Wednesday night, Card was believed to be driving a white Subaru Outback, which was located about 8 miles away in Lisbon, Maine, police said.
Lewiston police warned that Card “should be considered armed and dangerous.”
Residents in Lisbon were also ordered to shelter in place.
Maine State Police advised local residents and businesses to lock their doors and shelter in place.
“Please stay off the streets and allow law enforcement to diffuse the situation,” the state agency warned residents. “If you see any suspicious activity or individuals please call 911.”
During a Wednesday night press conference, authorities provided limited information on the shootings and did not disclose the number of victims.
But the Androscoggin Sheriff’s Office shared two images of the suspect carrying a rifle and said there were “two active shooter events” on its Facebook page.
Emergency personnel were called to separate shootings at Sparetime Recreation bowling alley, Schemengees Bar and Grille Restaurant, the Sun Journal reported.
A source told the newspaper that at least 14 people inside the restaurant were shot.
Lebel, the eatery’s co-owner, wasn’t working at the time but said she was told a gunman walked into Schemengees and just “started shooting.”
“It was just a fun night playing cornhole … it’s the last thing you’re expecting, right?” Lebel told the Sun Journal.
Early police reports suggested that the gunman may have gone to a third location, a local Walmart distribution center, but those reports were later debunked by a spokesperson for the chain who said the center was placed on lockdown as a precaution.
Surrounding towns — from as far away as New Hampshire — were called in to provide mutual aid, according to the local outlet.
Dozens of residents searching for missing loved ones tried to get answers outside Central Maine Medical Center, the closest hospital to the shooting scenes, where staff were “reacting to a mass casualty, mass shooter event,” according to the center’s website.
Armed security guards stood at the hospital’s main entrance for hours to ensure the safety of visitors and patients, News Center Maine reported.
A woman told the station that she hasn’t been able to reach her adult son who was reportedly shot while playing pool at Schemengees Bar with her ex-husband. She doesn’t know if he’s alive or dead.
“My ex-husband and my son were playing pool. And next thing I know, I saw on Facebook that there was a shooting at Schemengees where they were playing,” the woman named Julie told the station outside Central Maine Hospital, where she and his wife and son gathered to wait for answers.
“We’re all waiting and we’ve learned nothing,” she said. “They won’t tell us if he’s alive, if he’s in critical condition, if he’s passed — they won’t tell us anything.”
The shootings occurred as Lewiston public schools were holding parent-teacher conferences. All schools were placed on lockdown, the superintendent announced.
The district later announced that there would be no school on Thursday.
“There remains a lot of unknowns at this time. Information moves quickly but not always accurately. Please continue to shelter in place or get to safety,” officials for the school district wrote on Facebook.
“Stay close to your loved ones. Embrace them. Our prayers go out to those who lost someone tonight. Our prayers go out to all those working to stop further loss of life,” the district added.
Card, the person of interest, studied engineering at the University of Maine from 2001 to 2004 — though it’s unclear if he graduated, a school spokesperson told NBC News.
Wednesday’s carnage nearly matches the state’s total number of homicides for all of last year.
There were 29 murders in Maine in 2022, according to State Department of Public Safety statistics cited by NBC News.
Maine Gov. Janet Mills said she has been briefed on the active shooting situation in Lewiston, a city about 36 miles north of Portland.
“I urge all people in the area to follow the direction of State and local enforcement,” she wrote on X. “I will to continue to monitor the situation and remain in close contact with public safety officials.”
President Biden was also notified of the mass shooting.
“The president has been briefed on what’s known so far about the mass shooting in Lewiston, Maine, and will continue to receive updates,” the White House said.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.