Authorities scour woods, water and homes on Day 2 of search for suspect in Maine mass shooting

By David Sharp, Patrick Whittle, Holly Ramer And Michelle R. Smith in Lewiston – The Associated Press

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.

Nearly two days after the shooting, law enforcement officials gave no indication that they have any leads on Robert Card’s whereabouts. During a lengthy news conference absent of any major developments, Maine Department of Public Safety Commissioner Michael Sauschuck would only say that authorities are 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.”

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 where police said Card left his car shortly after the shootings Wednesday evening, and a farming business in the same town. At points throughout the day, police vehicles were seen speeding past, lights flashing and sirens blaring.

A gun was found in Card’s car 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.

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. “When we saw it on the news last night, I was shocked.”

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. Card will be charged with 18 counts of murder once all the victims are identified, authorities said.

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.

Police asked residents to continue to stay home in Lewiston and surrounding communities Friday. Schools, public buildings and many businesses remained 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 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.

At Friday’s briefing, 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.

Banner image:  (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

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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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