Maine shooting suspect found dead of apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, ending days-long manhunt

Gov. Janet Mills speaks during a news conference in the aftermath of a mass shooting, in Lewiston, Maine, Friday, Oct. 27, 2023. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Gov. Janet Mills of Maine announces to the media that Robert Card, the suspect in two mass killings, was found dead in Lewiston, Maine. (Matt Rourke/Associated Press)

Lewiston mass shooting suspect Robert Card was found dead Friday, ending an epic manhunt that forced a swath of Maine to shelter in place.

Officials said law enforcement officers found Card dead of a suspected self-inflicted gunshot wound at 7:45 p.m. Friday in the area of Lisbon Falls, not far from where his vehicle was located.

"This discovery is entirely thanks to the hundreds of local, county, state and federal law enforcement members from all over, and people from other states as well," Maine Gov. Janet Mills said at a news conference Friday night.

Authorities had spent days searching for Card, who opened fire at two Lewiston establishments late Wednesday, killing 18 and wounding at least 13 others. Officials finally lifted the shelter-in-place order late Friday, allowing thousands who were sheltering at home to commune with neighbors and loved ones.

By 10:30 p.m. Friday, police had blocked off the road leading to where Card's body was found. A helicopter circled overhead.

Some residents came out to confirm the news for themselves. Sophia Bailey, who owns Jeff’s Jamaican Cuisine food truck, had just signed off from a virtual vigil when messages began flooding her phone, saying Card's body had been found.

“I want to make sure it’s true,” Bailey said. She had been on edge for the last 48 hours, she said, racked by nerves, anxiety and sadness.

“Now I’m feeling that sense of peace, but we know the mourning continues,” she added. “We all have to go through this as a community.”

Casey Ring and her 15-year-old daughter, Olivia Brown, also traveled to the scene. They’d spent the previous two days sheltered at home in a wooded area in nearby Brunswick. Ring has other young children at home and said it's been challenging to talk to them about a scary and uncertain time.

“Hearing it was a big sigh of relief, not only feeling relief for the victims and their families but for the extended Card family,” Ring said. “They’re grieving their loss of a family member too.”

Olivia said her school is on a modified schedule Monday, open for just a couple of hours. She hopes they discuss it.

“It would be good to get everybody on the same page,” she said, adding that she hopes they can also begin to take steps toward healing.

In a country where so much of a mass shooting's aftermath has become almost routine — makeshift memorials at the scene, candlelight vigils, pleas for stricter gun laws — the eerie quiet throughout much of the community Friday was far from normal, with few opportunities for the kind of communal grieving that so often follows such massacres.

At the Blue Goose Tavern in Lewiston, owner Earl St. Hilaire said some friends started asking about his plans to reopen after keeping the bar shut Thursday. Safety remained his top priority, he said, but it's also important to be there for one another.

“I kind of wanted to let them breathe and relax instead of being tense,” said St. Hilaire, 49, a lifelong resident of the area. “I wanted them to talk with each other.”

Just before 6 p.m., phones simultaneously started blaring inside St. Hilaire's tavern, alerting residents that the shelter-in-place was over. An emergency alert also flashed across the TV.

Bert Coty, who owns a restaurant in nearby Auburn, said he planned to reopen his eatery Saturday after two days without business.

Dale Forrest joined the small crowd at the bar with her boxer dog, not expecting to find normality but grateful to no longer be alone.

“How do you process it?” said Forrest, who lives on the outskirts of town and worked in Lewiston for more than three decades. “You have to reach out to people. I have a lot of my friends check in."

Two people holding hands walk past a banner that says "Lewiston Strong," hanging on a storefront.
A couple walk by a banner put up in Lewiston, Maine, in response to this week's deadly mass shootings. (Robert F. Bukaty / Associated Press)

Conversations at the bar almost always turned back to the shootings, the victims, the wounded or the gunman. The Blue Goose’s regulars struggled to reckon with how their city — the second most populous in Maine — came to be the latest scene of American gun violence.

“You would never expect something like that to happen here,” said Patricia Poulin, 60.

Authorities used sonar, flyovers and dive teams Friday to search the Androscoggin River in Lisbon, near where officials found Card's white Subaru abandoned at the Paper Mills Trail at the Miller Park boat launch, about eight miles southeast of Lewiston, Maine Public Safety Commissioner Mike Sauschuck said.

Water teams looked for evidence and potentially bodies, Sauschuck said, adding that the massive multi-agency effort included teams searching the woods and following up on more than 500 tips from the public.

Late Thursday, authorities spent several hours serving search warrants at a residence associated with Card in Bowdoin, nearly 15 miles east of Lewiston. Officers surrounded the property, calling, "You are under arrest," over a megaphone, but Card did not appear to be there.

In their search of that house and others in the area, police and federal agents confirmed they found a note, but Sauschuck would not discuss its contents.

Read more: 'There's no processing this': Relative of 2 Maine shooting victims tells of hopes dashed

A law enforcement source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the source was not authorized to discuss the investigation, said Card appeared to have ditched his phone, leaving investigators no means of tracking him through electronic surveillance.

Officials identified 10 victims who were were fatally shot at Just-In-Time Recreation, a bowling alley in Lewiston: Thomas Ryan Conrad, 34; Michael R. Deslauriers II, 51; Jason Adam Walker, 51; Tricia C. Asselin, 53; William Frank Brackett, 48; Keith D. Macneir, 64; father and son William "Bill" A. Young, 44, and Aaron Young, 14; and husband and wife Robert E. Violette, 76, and Lucille M. Violette, 73.

There were eight victims killed at Schemengees Bar & Grille, about four miles from the bowling alley: Ronald G. Morin, 55; Peyton Brewer-Ross, 40; Joshua A. Seal, 36; Bryan M. MacFarlane, 41; Joseph Lawrence Walker, 57; Arthur Fred Strout, 42; Maxx A. Hathaway, 35; Stephen M. Vozzella, 45.

Sauschuck said the victims' families did not want to release the names of their hometowns. He said that among the dead, four were deaf.

An empty street lined by houses and trees with fall colors, with a church spire in the background.
The streets of Auburn, Maine, looking toward neighboring Lewiston, were quiet Friday as shelter-in-place orders remained in effect following this week's mass shootings. (Robert F. Bukaty / Associated Press)

Family members of some of those slain in the two shootings have started sharing their loved ones' stories. Walker's father remembered his son as someone who always looked out for others and supported many charities and fundraisers.

Rob Young told The Times that his brother Bill Young and Bill’s son, Aaron, had been at the bowling alley for a league competition. He said Aaron was a talented young bowler, and Bill Young had been a dedicated, loving father.

Mike Dyndiuk told The Times that his son Chris had been at Schemengees Bar & Grille with a group of friends, all deaf, for a cornhole tournament. He said three of Chris' friends were among those slain at the bar.

Three injured victims remained in critical condition as of Thursday, according to Steven Littleson, president and chief executive of Central Maine Healthcare.

Read more: Who is Robert Card, the suspect in Maine's deadliest mass shooting?

One victim, Justin Karcher, 23, had been in and out of surgery since Wednesday and was still in the intensive care unit on full life support, said Haley May, Karcher’s younger sister who lives with him.

“Everybody is nervous or on edge,” May said. “At this point, he could not make it. He could. It’s hard. But if he made it through the shooting and made it through a surgery one time, there’s luck that he’s gonna make it through altogether.”

Karcher had gone to Schemengees on Wednesday to play pool with his friend and the friend’s father, May said.

That day was supposed to be a day of celebration for Karcher — he and his girlfriend had just signed a contract to buy a home in a nearby town of Poland. Karcher, who loves the outdoors, was also planning a camping trip with his girlfriend for the next day.

But May said she and the rest of her family found out around 2 a.m. Thursday that Karcher was shot four times — in his right shoulder, left shoulder, stomach and kidney. Although Karcher was conscious when he got to the hospital — asking an anesthesiologist whether he would be OK — he has been in a medically induced coma for more than a day.

Read more: Editorial: The Maine shooting suspect fits the profile. He is American and he has a gun

As of Friday afternoon, he was in surgery to address the internal bleeding in his stomach.

May said the circumstances that Karcher is going through are similar to that of his dad, who died in 2019 when he was shot at a Walmart in Auburn. Karcher was there with his dad, May said.

“A lot of them think his dad’s looking over him right now, to keep on living,” said May, 22.

Card was a 21-year member of the Army Reserve, according to Army spokesperson Bryce Dubee. As a sergeant first class, Card served as a petroleum supply specialist and received several Army achievement medals, Dubee said.

Law enforcement sources told The Times that Card was a “trained firearms instructor” who recently reported problems with his mental health — “hearing voices” and threatening “to shoot up the National Guard base in Saco,” Maine. He was committed to a mental health facility for two weeks over the summer and released, according to law enforcement sources.

Heart-shaped signs on four trees, with messages saying "to my city" and "to my friends."
Heart-shaped cutouts with messages of support adorn trees in downtown Lewiston, Maine. (Robert F. Bukaty / Associated Press)

The sources said Wednesday's shootings showed signs of a planned attack and escape, adding that Card would have had advanced backwoods survival skills. Highly specialized federal teams were deployed to help find him, sources said.

As the search dragged on, much of Lewiston remained quiet. Empty parking space after empty parking space lined the usually busy Main Street on Friday morning. Most shops and businesses were still dark, with handwritten notes taped to windows announcing unplanned closures.

Only a few people ventured out earlier in the day Friday under the yellow, orange and red leaves that lined Main Street, not far from where a “Lewiston Strong” banner had been draped over a vacant storefront.

Nancy Pettegrow pushed her dog, Teddy, in a stroller — the only activity in sight along the city sidewalks. She’d been sheltering in her apartment, where she lives alone, anxious and scared to take Teddy out for anything except a quick bathroom break since Wednesday night's bloodshed.

But on Friday morning, Pettegrow said she needed some fresh air, so her stepdaughter came from the neighboring Poland area to bring her groceries and accompany her on a walk.

Read more: 'There's no processing this': Relative of 2 Maine shooting victims tells of hopes dashed

“I just can’t believe it,” said Pettegrow, 73, breaking down. The mass shooting has shattered her sense of security in Lewiston, where she said everyone feels like neighbors and friends.

“I don’t feel safe anymore," she said.

To keep her mind busy, she sings — mostly old country tunes from Patsy Cline and Tanya Tucker — and prays — for those who lost loved ones and for the nightmare to come to an end.

“I ask for strength to get through this,” she said.

In Auburn, just across the Androscoggin River from Lewiston, cars pulled in and out of the parking lot at Heathco's, a pizza place with a small market.

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Lisa Pesce, an employee who typically walks to work, said the store was closed Thursday but the owners decided to open Friday. But the thought of walking just the few minutes down the road Friday morning unnerved her, she said, so her husband offered to tag along.

“I said that’s foolish — if something happens to me and you, then the kids will have nobody,” said Pesce, 49.

She ended up walking alone.

The head of Lewiston public schools said Friday that schools would remain closed Monday, giving time for staff and students to heal.

Over at Bates College, Lewiston's most prestigious university, the lengthy manhunt turned the campus desolate. Classes were canceled for the second day in a row.

Petri reported from Lewiston, and Toohey, Park, Childs and Winton reported from Los Angeles. Times staff writers Faith E. Pinho, Brittny Mejia and Terry Castleman in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.