Suspect in US mass shooting found dead, drawing ‘sigh of relief’ in Maine
The suspect in a mass shooting that killed 18 people in the US state of Maine has been found dead, the state’s governor said on Friday, ending a two-day manhunt that mobilised hundreds of law enforcement agents and set jittery residents of the northeastern state on edge.
Robert Card, a 40-year-old Army reservist, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, and his body was discovered at 7:45pm (11:45pm GMT), Maine public safety commissioner Mike Sauschuck said.
Card is believed to be the perpetrator of a rampage on Wednesday evening that left 18 people dead and 13 others wounded in a bowling alley and a bar-restaurant in this hard-scrabble city.
“I’m breathing a sigh of relief tonight knowing that Robert Card is no longer a threat to anyone,” governor Janet Mills told a hastily called news conference.
The sentiment was echoed by US Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who said on X, formerly Twitter, that President Joe Biden called her “to tell me the perpetrator of the heinous attacks in Lewiston had been found.”
Biden said the mass shooting brought “a tragic two days — not just for Lewiston, Maine, but for our entire country.”
“I will continue to do everything in my power to end this gun violence epidemic. The Lewiston community — and all Americans — deserve nothing less,” Biden said in a statement released by the White House.
Authorities on Friday identified the victims, ranging from a husband and wife in their 70s, to a 14-year-old boy killed alongside his father.
The killing spree in a bowling alley and bar-restaurant marked the deadliest mass shooting in the US this year.
Card’s body was found in Lisbon Falls, southeast of Lewiston near the Androscoggin River, authorities said. US media said his body was found near a recycling centre that was Card’s place of employment before he lost his job there.
Roads leading to the site were blocked by police on Friday evening, an AFP journalist saw.
Sauschuck said he could not immediately say when Card shot himself. The shooting — and Card’s fugitive status — had brought dread to southern Maine over the past two days. Authorities had described Card as “armed and dangerous”.
Earlier on Friday, authorities said they were chasing down more than 530 tips and leads on Card’s possible whereabouts.
Card is an army reservist, but had not been deployed in any combat zone. US media reported that he had recently been sent for psychiatric treatment after he said he was hearing voices.
This latest shooting is one of the deadliest in the United States since 2017, when a gunman opened fire on a crowded music festival in Las Vegas, killing 60 people.
‘Community is shattered’
Earlier on Friday, law enforcement agents deployed along the Androscoggin River — near where Card’s white SUV was found — and divers using sonar entered the river to look for evidence or a body.
Hours before the break in the case, Sauschuck announced the lifting of a lockdown in the area around Lewiston that had shuttered schools and businesses.
Lewiston residents voiced anxiety over how the search for Card would play out.
“Uneasy,” Lewiston resident Jeremy Hiltz told AFP when asked how he felt. “It’s a small community. When something like this happens, everybody knows somebody” affected.
He said a number of intersecting social crises have afflicted Lewiston, a city of some 38,000 inhabitants.
“This community itself has been devastated by addiction and housing crisis and poverty … So to put this on top of it, it’s really just a devastating situation for us,” Hiltz said.
An education centre for the deaf and hard of hearing, located on a small island 45 minutes drive south of Lewiston, was particularly hard-hit by the tragedy.
Among those killed at the Schemengees bar-restaurant, where the killer appeared after the rampage at the bowling alley, were four men with ties to the school — as former students, educators or parents — Karen Hopkins, the school’s director, told AFP.
“It’s a heavy time. Our community is shattered right now,” she said.