By Jake Bleiberg, Patrick Whittle, Holly Ramer and David Sharp,
The Associated Press
LEWISTON, Maine (AP) — Police teams had already searched a recycling center in Maine twice before eventually finding the body of the man suspected of killing 18 people in Lewiston, authorities said Oct. 28.
Department of Public Safety Commissioner Michael Sauschuck said the teams scoured the Maine Recycling Corp. property that features as many as 60 trailers the night of Oct. 26. He said another state police team returned to the site the next day and found Robert Card’s body in a trailer that hadn’t been searched.
The 40-year-old Card of Bowdoin — a firearms instructor who grew up in the area — was suspected of also injuring 13 people during a shooting rampage at a bowling alley and bar on Oct. 25 in Lewiston. Card died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, authorities said.
Jim Ferguson, the ATF special agent in charge in Boston, told The Associated Press that the weapons used in the shooting had been purchased legally. Many firearms were recovered from Card although he declined to say their make, model or how many exactly.
“There were a lot more than three,” Ferguson said.
In the Oct. 28 press conference, Sauschuck said Card had a history of mental illness, but there was no evidence that he had ever been involuntarily committed. “Just because there appears to be a mental health nexus to this scenario, the vast majority of people with mental health diagnosis will never hurt anybody,” he said.
As for why Card chose his targets, Sauschuck said it was likely due to paranoia, that he thought people were talking about him.
He also said the note found in Card’s home was meant for a loved one with the pass code to his phone and bank account numbers. Sauschuck said he wouldn’t describe it as an explicit suicide note but that the tone indicated that was the intent.
Street life returned to Lewiston early Oct. 28 after a days-long lockdown in the city of 37,000. Joggers took advantage of the warm weather. People walked dogs through downtown and picked up coffees and visited other shops that had been closed since the shooting.
“Right now, we want Maine to be remembered as the community that came together after this tragic event,” said Lisbon Police Chief Ryan McGee, recalling how he drove into town Oct. 28 and saw “people walking the streets, people sitting on porches, waving. Giving the thumbs up.”
Whitney Pelletier hung a hand-drawn “Lewiston Strong” sign in the glass door of her downtown cafe, Forage, on Saturday morning. Like other local businesses, Forage has been closed for days as police searched for Card.
“Last night when they found his body, I think the fear that I had been holding onto just living in downtown Lewiston was replaced with sadness,” she said.
The deadliest shootings in Maine history stunned a state of 1.3 million people that has relatively little violent crime and had only 29 killings in all of 2022. In Lewiston, the 37,000 residents and those in surrounding communities were told to stay in their homes as hundreds of police officers, sheriff’s deputies, FBI agents and other law enforcement officials swarmed the area.
The stay-at-home order was lifted Oct. 27 and hours later authorities announced they had found Card’s body.
Maine Gov. Janet Mills announced Card had been found dead at an Oct. 27 night news conference. Then, she called for the healing process to begin.
“Like many people I’m breathing a sigh of relief tonight knowing that Robert Card is no longer a threat to anyone,” Mills said.
Card was a U.S. Army reservist. Leo Madden, who said he ran Maine Recycling Corp. for decades, told the AP that Card worked there for a couple of years and nothing about him stood out. Madden said he didn’t remember when Card was employed or whether he was fired or quit. The facility is located in Lisbon, not far from Lewiston.
Last summer, Card underwent a mental health evaluation after he began acting erratically during training, a U.S. official told the AP. A bulletin sent to police across the country shortly after the attack said Card had been committed to a mental health facility for two weeks after “hearing voices and threats to shoot up” a military base.
The military said Card was training with the Army Reserve’s 3rd Battalion, 304th Infantry Regiment in West Point, N.Y., when commanders became concerned about him. State police took Card to the Keller Army Community Hospital at West Point for evaluation.
On Oct. 25, Card attacked the bowling alley first, then went to the bar. Police were quickly sent to both locations but Card was able to escape. For the next two days authorities scoured the woods and hundreds of acres of Card’s family-owned property, and sent dive teams with sonar to the bottom of the Androscoggin River.
Law enforcement officials had said they hadn’t seen Card since his vehicle was left at a boat ramp shortly after the shootings.
Hours before Card’s body was found, the names and pictures of the 15 men, two women and 14-year-old boy who died in the shootings were released at a news conference.
The Maine Department of Public Safety said it would open a Family Assistance Center in Lewiston starting the morning of Oct. 28 to offer help and support to victims at the Lewiston Armory.
The Maine Educational Center for the Deaf said the shootings killed at least four members of their community.
Tammy Asselin was in the bowling alley with her 10-year-old daughter, Toni, and was injured when she fell in the scramble as the shooting began. She had said she hoped the shooter would be found alive because she and her daughter had many questions that they hoped he could answer.
On Oct. 28, she told the AP in a text message that her daughter was relieved by the news, and she was able to sleep peacefully.
“I am relieved as well, but also saddened at a lost opportunity to learn as much as we can,” she said. “Now we are on the journey to heal, and I am looking forward to working on this. It will be difficult but I’m optimistic we will be stronger in the long run.”
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.
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.
Sauschuck also praised Card’s family, who called investigators to provide his name to law enforcement soon after police released surveillance pictures of the shooter.
“This family has been incredibly cooperative with us,” Sauschuck said. “Truth be told the first three people that called us … were family members.”
The Lewiston shootings were 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.
Ramer reported from Concord, New Hampshire and Whittle from Portland, Maine. Associated Press journalists who also contributed: Robert Bukaty and Robert Bumsted in Lewiston; Michael Balsamo in New York; and Michael Casey in Boston.