A man shot and killed at least 16 people at a restaurant and a bowling alley in Lewiston, Maine, and then fled into the night, sparking a massive search by hundreds of officers while frightened residents in multiple communities stayed locked in their homes Thursday under a shelter-in-place advisory.
A police bulletin identified Robert Card, 40, as a person of interest in the attack that sent panicked bowlers scrambling behind pins when shots rang out around 7 p.m. Wednesday. Card was described as a firearms instructor believed to be in the Army Reserve and assigned to a training facility in Saco, Maine.
The document, circulated to law enforcement officials, said Card had been committed to a mental health facility for two weeks in the summer of 2023. It did not provide details about his treatment or condition but said Card had reported “hearing voices and threats to shoot up” the military base. A telephone number listed for Card in public records was not in service.
Lewiston Police said in an earlier Facebook post that they were dealing with an active shooter incident at Schemengees Bar and Grille and at Sparetime Recreation, a bowling alley about 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) away. A number of parents and children were at Sparetime as part of a children’s bowling league.
Ten-year-old Zoey Levesque, who was there with her mother, told WMTW-TV she was grazed by a bullet.
“It’s scary,” she said. “I had never thought I’d grow up and get a bullet in my leg. And it’s just like, why? Why do people do this?”
One bowler, who identified himself only as Brandon, said he heard about 10 shots, thinking the first was a balloon popping.
“I had my back turned to the door. And as soon as I turned and saw it was not a balloon — he was holding a weapon — I just booked it,” he told The Associated Press.
Brandon said he scrambled down the length of the alley, sliding into the pin area and climbing up to hide in the machinery. He was among a busload of survivors who were driven to a middle school in the neighboring city of Auburn to be reunited with family and friends.
“I was putting on my bowling shoes when when it started. I’ve been barefoot for five hours,” he said.
The bowling alley is home to traditional tenpin bowling as well as candlepin, a variant of bowling found in New England. It’s located about 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) north of the Bates College campus, on the outskirts of downtown. The alley has a small bar and is popular for local bowling leagues and children’s parties.
Melinda Small, the owner of Legends Sports Bar and Grill, said her staff immediately locked their doors and moved all 25 customers and employees away from the doors after a customer reported hearing about the shooting at the bowling alley less than a quarter-mile away. Soon, the police flooded the roadway and a police officer eventually escorted everyone out of the building.
“I am honestly in a state of shock. I am blessed that my team responded quickly and everyone is safe,” Small said. “But at the same time, my heart is broken for this area and for what everyone is dealing with. I just feel numb.”
After the shooting, police, many armed with rifles, took up positions while the city descended into eerie quiet — punctuated by occasional sirens — as people hunkered down at home. Schools as far away as Kennebunk, an hour from Lewiston, reported closing out of caution on Thursday.
The Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office released two photos of the suspect on its Facebook page that showed the shooter walking into an establishment with a weapon raised to his shoulder.
Two law enforcement officials told The AP that at least 16 people were killed and the toll was expected to rise. However, Michael Sauschuck, commissioner of the Maine Department of Public Safety, declined to provide a specific estimate at a news conference, calling it a “fluid situation.” State police planned to hold a midmorning news conference Thursday.
It’s 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.