Maine officials lift shelter-in-place order as search for mass shooting suspect continues

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LEWISTON, Maine (AP) — Maine officials have lifted a shelter-in-place order as the search for the suspect in the Lewiston mass shooting continues.

State Public Safety Commissioner Mike Sauschuck made the announcement Friday afternoon at a news conference in which he named all 18 victims of the mass shooting. All of the victims’ families have been notified, officials said.

Sauschuck read the names aloud. Photos of those slain were posted on a board behind him. The reading was followed by a moment of silence.

The announcements came as authorities scoured the woods and hundreds of acres of family-owned property, sent dive teams with sonar to the bottom of a river and scrutinized a possible suicide note Friday in the second day of their intensive search for an Army reservist accused of fatally shooting 18 people and wounding 13 at a bowling alley and a bar in Maine.

A spokesperson for the state medical examiner’s office said the victims ranged in age from 14 to 76.

Nearly two days after the shooting, law enforcement officials gave no indication that they have any leads on Robert Card’s whereabouts. Sauschuck said at an earlier news conference Friday that authorities were leaving all their options open.

“We’re going to be all over the place,” Sauschuck said. “That’s not saying that we know that the individual is in this house, you know, in that house or they’re in that swath of land, this acreage.”

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Police and other law enforcement officers were spotted in several areas around the region on Friday. Divers searched the water near a boat launch in Lisbon, and a farming business in the same town. At points throughout the day, police vehicles were seen speeding through several towns, lights flashing and sirens blaring.

A gun was found in Card’s car, which was discovered at a boat ramp, and federal agents were testing it to determine if it was used in the shooting, two law enforcement officials told The Associated Press. The officials were not authorized to publicly discuss details of the investigation and spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity. Authorities have said publicly that the shooter used at least one rifle. They have not released any other details, including how the suspect obtained the firearm.

Sauschuck said Friday that authorities were going to conduct extensive searches of the nearby Androscoggin River by air and boat, and that a utility was using its dams to lower the river in the area, but he made it clear that would not be their only area of focus.

Authorities found a suicide note at a home associated with Card on Thursday that was addressed to his son, the law enforcement officials said. They said it didn’t provide any specific motive for the shooting. Authorities also recovered Card’s cellphone in the home, making a search more complicated because authorities routinely use phones to track suspects, the officials said.

Federal agents conducted several searches of properties associated with Card on Thursday, collecting a number of items, including electronics, the officials said. Investigators are also analyzing Card’s financial information and reviewing his social media posts, writings and his mental health history, they said.

The Cards have lived in Bowdoin for generations, neighbors said, and various members of the family own hundreds of acres in the area. The family owned the local sawmill and years ago donated the land for a local church.

“This is his stomping ground,” Richard Goddard, who lives on the road where a search took place on Thursday, said of the suspect. “He knows every ledge to hide behind, every thicket.”

Authorities say Card, 40, who has firearms training, opened fire at a bar and a bowling alley Wednesday in Lewiston, Maine’s second-largest city about 15 miles (24 kilometers) from Bowdoin.

Family members of Card told federal investigators that he had recently discussed hearing voices and became more focused on the bowling alley and bar, according to the law enforcement officials who spoke on condition of anonymity. When he was hospitalized in July in New York, Card had told military officials he had been hearing voices and said he wanted to harm other soldiers, the officials said.

A neighbor, Dave Letarte, said Card’s family let them deer hunt on their property and were kind, although Letarte said he noticed Card appeared to have mental problems for a while.

“People have problems, but you don’t expect them to go off the deep end like that,” Letarte said.

A telephone number listed for Card in public records was not in service. A woman who answered a phone number for one of Card’s relatives on Thursday afternoon said the family was helping the FBI. She didn’t give her name or additional details.

Wednesday’s shootings left 18 people dead and 13 wounded, three of whom were hospitalized in critical condition, authorities said. Sixteen of the dead were males and two were female, Lindsey Chasteen of the Office of Chief Medical Examiner wrote in an email.

Police said Thursday that Card would be charged with 18 counts of murder once all the victims were identified.

The victims of the shootings include Bob Violette, 76, a retiree who was coaching a youth bowling league and was described as devoted, approachable and kind. Auburn City Councilor Leroy Walker told news outlets that his son, Joe, a manager at the bar and grill, died going after the shooter with a butcher knife. Peyton Brewer-Ross was a dedicated pipefitter at Bath Iron Works whose death leaves a gaping void in the lives of his partner, young daughter and friends, members of his union said.

The manager of the youth bowling league vowed that the league would survive despite the devastating grief members were feeling.

Before the shelter-in-place order was lifted, police had asked residents to stay home in Lewiston and surrounding communities Friday. Schools, public buildings and many businesses were closed. Bates College in Lewiston canceled classes Friday and postponed the inauguration of the school’s first Black president.

In nearby Sabattus, cashiers at a gas station told their customers to “have a good day and go home.”

Authorities had acknowledged the difficulty of having residents stay home a second day, but Lewiston Police Chief David St. Pierre asked for patience and promised that they were constantly evaluating the request.

The attacks stunned a state of only 1.3 million people that has one of the country’s lowest homicide rates: 29 killings in all of 2022.

Police were sorting through at least 530 tips since the shootings. Crime scene technicians were still gathering evidence at the bar and bowling alley. Dozens of officers spent Thursday at Card family land. After several hours they left with state police saying it was unclear whether the suspect had ever been at the location.

Sauschuck refused to say how long it took police to arrive at the bowling alley and bar after the shootings were reported or whether investigators have any idea of where Card might be or if he is still alive.

“We want to make sure that we bring this individual into custody but we got to do it right,” Sauschuck said.

In many past U.S. mass shootings, the suspect was found — whether dead or alive — within minutes.

The shootings mark 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.

Ramer reported from Concord, New Hampshire, Whittle from Portland, Maine, and Smith from Bowdoin, Maine. Associated Press journalists Jake Bleiberg in Portland; Robert Bukaty and Robert Bumsted in Lewiston; David R. Martin in Bowdoin; Michael Balsamo in New York; Darlene Superville and Lolita Baldor in Washington, D.C.; Michael Casey in Boston; Kathy McCormack in Concord, New Hampshire; Jeffrey Collins in Columbia, South Carolina, and Associated Press researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report.

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