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Police respond to an active shooter situation in Lewiston, Maine, Alamy Stock Photo

Biden condemns 'tragic' Maine shooting and urges assault weapons ban as manhunt continues

Eight murder warrants were issued for Robert Card (40) after authorities identified eight of the victims.

LAST UPDATE | 26 Oct 2023

US PRESIDENT JOE Biden has condemned the “senseless and tragic” mass shooting in Maine which killed 18 people and he called on rival Republicans to back a ban on high-powered weapons.

“Today, in the wake of yet another tragedy, I urge Republican lawmakers in Congress to fulfill their duty to protect the American people. Work with us to pass a bill banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines,” the Democratic president said in a statement.

It has been confirmed that 18 people were killed and another 13 wounded in the shooting yesterday.

The state’s governor Janet Mills shared the figures after it was estimated that the death toll was as high as 22.

“I am profoundly saddened to stand before you today to report that 18 people lost their lives and 13 people injured in last night’s attacks,” she said.

Two officials told AP the shootings happened yesterday evening at a bar and bowling alley.

The officials were not authorised to publicly discuss details of the ongoing investigation and spoke to AP on condition of anonymity.

Investigators were still processing the crime scenes and working to gather evidence.

Lewiston city councillor Robert McCarthy had previously told CNN that law enforcement had “confirmed 22 dead, many, many more injured”.

Maine public safety official Mike Sauschuck said he was not prepared to give a death toll, calling it “a very fluid situation.”

He told reporters police were flooding the streets as they sought the gunman.

“We have literally hundreds of police officers working around the state of Maine to investigate this case, to locate Mr Card (the suspect),” he told reporters.

Eight murder warrants were issued for Robert Card (40) after authorities identified eight of the victims. Ten more will likely be issued once the names of the rest of the dead are confirmed, said Maine State Police spokesman William Ross.

Three of the 13 people wounded in the shootings were in a critical condition and five were in hospital but stable, Central Maine Medical Centre officials said.

US President Joe Biden has ordered flags to be lowered to half-mast at the White House and all government buildings.

He said in a statement that the move was “mark of respect for the victims of the senseless acts of violence” in the small town.

Police are still searching for the man who opened fire at two locations in the Maine city.

Card had been trained as a firearms instructor at a US Army Reserve training facility in Maine, according to a state police bulletin. 

Lewiston Police confirmed in a social media post that Robert Card was a person of interest in the shooting and said he should be considered armed and dangerous.

The force said in an earlier post that they were dealing with an active shooter incident at Schemengees Bar and Grille and Sparetime Recreation, a bowling alley.

“Please stay off the roads to allow emergency responders access to the hospitals,” police said.

On its website, Central Maine Medical Centre said staff were “reacting to a mass casualty, mass shooter event” and were coordinating with area hospitals to take in patients.

The alert for Lewiston was made shortly after 8pm local time as the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office reported that law enforcement agencies were investigating “two active shooter events”.

The sheriff’s office said the suspect was still at large.


“We are encouraging all businesses to lock down and or close while we investigate,” the sheriff’s office reported.

A spokesperson for Maine Department of Public Safety urged residents to stay in their homes with their doors locked.

In a post on social media this afternoon, Maine State Police said it was “expanding the shelter in place advisory and school closings” to include the town of Bowdoin.

“Please state inside your homes while more than 100 investigators, both local and federal, work to locate Robert Card who is a person of interest in the Lewiston shootings,” it said. 

maine-shooting Robert Card, who police have identified as a person of interest in connection to the mass shootings Lewiston Maine Police Department / PA Images Lewiston Maine Police Department / PA Images / PA Images

Card underwent a mental health evaluation in mid-July after he began acting erratically during training, a US official told The Associated Press.

A US official said Card was training with the Army Reserve’s 3rd Battalion, 304th Infantry Regiment in West Point, New York, when commanders became concerned about him.

State police took Card to the Keller Army Community Hospital at West Point for evaluation, according to the official.

Police said they have had no reported sightings of Card since the shootings at Schemengees Bar and Grille and at Sparetime Recreation, a bowling alley about four miles away. The Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office released two photos of the suspect walking into the bowling alley with a rifle raised to his shoulder.

First-hand accounts

The attack started at Sparetime, where a children’s bowling league was taking place, just before 7pm on Wednesday. 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 AP.

Brandon said he scrambled down the length of the alley, sliding into the pin area and climbing up to hide in the machinery.

Less than 15 minutes after the shooting began, numerous 911 calls started coming in from Schemengees, which was offering 25% discounts to customers who work in the bar or restaurant industry.

Patrick Poulin was supposed to be at the bowling centre with his 15-year-old son, who is in a league that was practising yesterday.

They stayed at home but he estimates there were probably several dozen young bowlers, aged 4 to 18, along with their parents, in the facility. Poulin said his brother was there and shepherded some of the children outside when the shooting began.

“He’s pretty shook up,” Poulin said. “And it’s just sinking in today, like, wow, I was very close to being there. And a lot of the people that got hurt, I know.”

April Stevens lives in the same neighborhood where one of the shootings took place. She turned on all her lights overnight and locked her doors. She knew someone killed at the bar and another person injured who needed surgery.

“I’m still working because I can work from home. My husband cancelled his jobs today to stay home with me. We’re praying for everyone,” Stevens said through tears.

Authorities launched a multi-state search for Card on land and water. The Coast Guard sent out a patrol boat this morning along the Kennebec River but after hours of searching, they found “nothing out of the ordinary”, said Chief Petty Officer Ryan Smith, who is in charge of the Coast Guard’s Boothbay Harbour Station.

Maine governor Janet Mills promised to do whatever was needed to find Card and to “hold whoever is responsible for this atrocity accountable … and to seek full justice for the victims and their families”.

“We are not, and we will not, rest in this endeavour,” she said.

US President Joe Biden had spoken by phone to Mills and the state’s Congress members, offering “full federal support in the wake of this horrific attack”, a White House statement said.

Maine Congressman Jared Golden wrote on social media that “like all Mainers, I’m horrified by the events in Lewison tonight. This is my hometown”.

“Right now, all of us are looking to local law enforcement as they gain control of the situation and gather information. Our hearts break for those who are affected,” he said.

Several Maine school boards and educational institutions, including Bates College, said they would not be holding classes today, according to statements.

With reporting by © AFP 2023 and Press Association

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