Terrified residents of Lewiston, Maine, woke up Saturday with some relief amid their shock and grief after the “armed and dangerous” shooter who had kept them in custody since killing 18 people Wednesday was found dead.
The body of suspected shooter Robert Card, 40, was found Friday evening near a recycling area 10 miles from Lewiston, with what authorities said was an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Announcing Friday evening that the massive local, county, state and federal hunt for Card was over, Maine Gov. Janet Mills said she “breathed a sigh of relief tonight knowing that Card was no longer a threat to anyone.”
“Tonight, the people of Lewiston and the state of Maine begin to move forward on what will be a long and difficult road to recovery. But we will heal together,” Mills said.
Sen. Susan Collins said Maine residents can now “breathe a collective sigh of relief.”
“To the families who have lost loved ones and those injured by this attack, I know that no words can lessen the shock, pain and legitimate anger you feel,” she said. “I hope you find comfort and strength knowing that you are in the hearts of the people of Maine and across the country.”
Maine Department of Public Safety Commissioner Michael Sauschuck said the suspect’s body was discovered Friday evening near the Androscoggin River in Lisbon Falls, just a few miles from Lewiston, where 18 people were fatally shot in a bowling alley and a restaurant. Another 13 people were injured in the worst massacre of its kind the state has ever witnessed.
In Lewiston, there was an almost immediate feeling that the community might exhale after three tense and terrifying days with the shooter on the loose. Shops were closed, with few people on the streets while hundreds of police searched rivers, woods and homes for Card. Officials announced that Maine’s public hunting season will open Saturday as planned.
“The search for Mr. Card is over. The caution is over. Hunting could resume,” indicated an alert to residents issued Friday evening.
Attention will now turn to comforting and assisting the families of those killed in the attack at the Just-in-Time Recreation bowling alley and Schemengees Bar & Grille, supporting the injured, seven of whom were still at home. hospital Saturday morning, and preparing to lay the dead to rest.
Those killed ranged in age from 14 to 76 and included facility staff, parents, children, members of the local deaf community attending a game night, and several heroes who called for help and attempted to stop the shooter.
“It was one of the scariest things I’ve ever experienced,” said Elizabeth Bean, 18, who said she and her family had left their home only once since the shooting – to go shopping. “We didn’t want to take any risks. So it was really sad.
During the manhunt, there was also a focus on Card’s mental health history. He had been taken by police for an evaluation after military officials became concerned about his erratic behavior in mid-July, a U.S. official told The Associated Press.
The official said commanders of the Army’s Third Reserve Battalion, the 304th Infantry Regiment, became concerned in mid-July that Card was acting erratically while the unit was training in the West Point Military Academy in New York.
The official said military commanders were concerned about Card’s safety and requested that police be called. New York State Police took Card to Keller Military Community Hospital in West Point for evaluation, the official said.
With the conclusion of the manhunt, Sauschuck said the hunting restrictions put in place are now lifted.
Noah Caron, 17, said he thinks Lewiston can now begin to grieve. “It was good to see how the community came together and kept everyone close,” he said.
Lisbon Police Chief Ryan McGee echoed the sentiment. “We have a great community and it’s going to stick together,” he said.
“It was dark and scary,” said one woman, who gave her name as Monica, whose husband’s truck was inaccessible near the sewage plant. “Now the light can start to come back.”
It is the worst gun massacre in the United States so far this year and prompted Joe Biden to reiterate his strong calls for a ban on assault weapons for the general public, like the weapon used by Card.
It also motivated a Democratic congressman from Maine, who had opposed calls to ban assault rifles in every previous mass shooting in the United States since the last ban expired in 2004 , to change course after a murder takes place in his hometown.