LEWISTON, Maine — The Army reservist who opened fire in a bowling alley and then at a bar in Lewiston, Maine, killing 18 people, was found dead Friday from a self-inflicted gunshot, ending an intensive two-day search that had the state on edge.
Robert Card, a firearms instructor who grew up in the area, was found dead in nearby Lisbon Falls, Gov. Janet Mills said at a Friday night news conference.
“Like many people I’m breathing a sigh of relief tonight knowing that Robert Card is no longer a threat to anyone,” Mills said.
Commissioner of Maine Department of Public Safety Mike Sauschuck said Card was found at 7:45 p.m. near the Androscoggin River, about 8 miles (13 kilometers) southeast of where the second shooting occurred Wednesday evening. He declined to divulge the location but an official told The Associated Press the body was at a recycling center from which Card recently was fired.
The official was not authorized to discuss details of the investigation publicly and spoke to on condition of anonymity.
Leo Madden, who said he ran Maine Recycling Corp. for decades, said Card had worked there for a couple of years but said he couldn’t recall the dates and didn’t know if Card was “fired or didn’t show up.”
“He was a good employee,” Madden told the AP, adding that nothing about the man stood out to him while he was an employee.
Mills said she had called President Joe Biden to alert him that Card was dead.
“Tonight we’re grateful that Lewiston and surrounding communities are safe after spending excruciating days hiding in their homes,” Biden said in a statement. He added that “Americans should not have to live like this” and called on Congress to take action on gun violence.
Card, 40, of Bowdoin, Maine, was a U.S. Army reservist who underwent a mental health evaluation in mid-July after he began acting erratically during training, a U.S. official told The Associated Press.
Card had been sought since the Wednesday night shootings, and murder warrants were issued against him.
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 this past summer after “hearing voices and threats to shoot up” a military base.
A U.S. 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, who was not authorized to publicly discuss the information and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity
Authorities had scoured the woods and hundreds of acres of family-owned property, sent dive teams with sonar to the bottom of a river and scrutinized a possible suicide note Friday in the second day of their intensive search.
Authorities lifted their shelter in place order Friday evening, nearly 48 hours after the shootings.
The names and pictures of the 16 males and 2 females who died were released at an earlier news conference Friday where Sauschuck asked for a moment of silence. Their ages ranged from 14 to 76.
Law enforcement officials had said they hadn’t seen Card since his vehicle was left at a boat ramp Wednesday shortly after the shootings.
The city held an online vigil Friday night with local clergy members, prayer and music. Residents expressed their shock and pain in chat postings, describing themselves as angry, grieving, tired and heartbroken. Those watching at home were urged to light candles.
One poster, Victoria, wrote: “I lost 2 people that I cared truly about and a close family friend that is currently fighting for his life in ICU. My heart’s shattered.”
Police and other law enforcement officers were spotted in several areas around the region on Friday. Divers searched the water near a boat launch in Lisbon, and a farming business in the same town. At points throughout the day, police vehicles were seen speeding through several towns, lights flashing and sirens blaring.
A gun was found in Card’s car, which was discovered at a boat ramp, and federal agents were testing it to determine if it was used in the shooting, two law enforcement officials told the AP. The officials were not authorized to publicly discuss details of the investigation and spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity. Authorities have said publicly that the shooter used at least one rifle. They have not released any other details, including how the suspect obtained the firearm.
Authorities found a suicide note at a home associated with Card on Thursday that was addressed to his son, the law enforcement officials said. They said it didn’t provide any specific motive for the shooting. Authorities also recovered Card’s cellphone in the home, making a search more complicated because authorities routinely use phones to track suspects, the officials said.
Federal agents conducted several searches of properties associated with Card on Thursday, collecting a number of items, including electronics, the officials said. Investigators are also analyzing Card’s financial information and reviewing his social media posts, writings and his mental health history, they said.
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.
Police said Thursday that Card would be charged with 18 counts of murder.
The victims of the shootings include Bob Violette, 76, a retiree who was coaching a youth bowling league and was described as devoted, approachable and kind. Auburn City Councilor Leroy Walker told news outlets that his son, Joe, a manager at the bar and grill, died going after the shooter with a butcher knife. Peyton Brewer-Ross was a dedicated pipefitter at Bath Iron Works whose death leaves a gaping void in the lives of his partner, young daughter and friends, members of his union said.
The manager of the youth bowling league vowed that the league would survive despite the devastating grief members were feeling.
The Maine Educational Center for the Deaf said the shootings killed at least four members of their community, many of whom were ardent advocates for the deaf and hard of hearing.
The attacks stunned a state of only 1.3 million people that has one of the country’s lowest homicide rates: 29 killings in all of 2022. Mills said Friday that many Maine residents will know someone who died.
Schools, public buildings and many businesses had remained closed Friday. Bates College in Lewiston canceled classes and postponed the inauguration of the school’s first Black president.
Authorities had banned hunting in several communities, in a state where it is immensely popular. However, following confirmation of Card’s death, a public safety alert was issued that announced: “The search is over for Mr. Card. The caution is over. Hunting may resume.”
The shootings mark 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.