LEWISTON, Maine — The 40-year-old man suspected of committing mass murder here is dead, officials said, concluding a massive manhunt that had hundreds of law enforcement officers swarming all over the region.
Maine Gov. Janet Mills confirmed to reporters inside City Hall late Friday night that Robert Card was found dead and Maine Public Safety Department Commissioner Michael Sauschuck said the man died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Card is accused of killing 18 people and injuring 13 others at a bowling alley and pub in the city.
“I stand here tonight to simply report that the Maine State Police have located the body of Robert Card in Lisbon. He is dead. I called President Biden to inform him about this news,” Mills said. “But this discovery is entirely thanks to the hundreds of local, county, state and federal law enforcement members from all over and people from other states as well.”
Mills said she was “breathing a sigh of relief” that Card was no longer a threat to anyone.
Lewiston Mayor Carl Sheline said the people of his city can “breathe a sigh of relief.”
“I know I speak for the entire city when I say that the men and women of Lewiston Police Department, Maine State Police, and the many other law enforcement agencies involved in this investigation have our profound gratitude,” he said in a statement to the Herald. “Now, it’s time to take a breath, begin to mourn our dead, and try to heal.”
Sauschuck said Card was found at around 7:45 p.m. along the Androscoggin River in Lisbon Falls but did not confirm the exact location of the man’s body.
“I can confirm that it’s an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound,” he said.
The announcement comes after thousands of Mainers were cleared just hours before from a shelter-in-place order as law enforcement continued their search for Card.
Lockdowns were lifted in Lewiston, Auburn, Bowdoin, Monmouth, and Lisbon as officials said they were gearing up for an expansive evidence-gathering and manhunt operation that included hundreds of law enforcement personnel nationwide.
Authorities issued this week an arrest warrant for eight counts of murder for Card, the man they said allegedly entered Just-In-Time Recreation and Schemengees Bar and Grille Restaurant Wednesday and opened fire.
Sauschuck said the decision to rescind the shelter-in-place order came after an internal discussion where officials weighed the pros and cons of communities having to put their lives on pause.
“Are we doing more harm than good by keeping people away from these clinics and their doctors and in schools?” Sauschuck at City Hall. “And while this is still absolutely a dangerous situation without question, we’ve got to make recommendations and ask the people that we serve as the people who we protect, to be vigilant.”
But as the orders were lifted, Sauschuck said law enforcement had not seen Card in the last two days, telling reporters at the time that his whereabouts were unknown.
More than 500 tips and leads had already come in to police as of early Friday, he said.
“But again, in the stack of that 500-plus, you may have somebody that says ‘hey, we see somebody that looks like that.’ So we have not,” he said at an afternoon briefing with reporters.
Divers searched the Androscoggin River and law enforcement used sonars, remote-operated equipment, and aerial vehicles like planes or helicopters. A power company that operates two dams in the area planned to adjust the flow of water to help divers see more clearly, Sauschuck said.
“We certainly don’t want to wait too long because the river is a big piece of this, the car was located there, evidence is located in the vehicle or right there along the shores of the Androscoggin River,” Sauschuck said. “So that’s stuff that we want to make sure that we’re checking and we’re using the resources that we have available.”
Heavily armed law enforcement personnel were also seen in Durham, Maine, which Sauschuck said was a result of several “911 hang-up calls”
“Hang-up calls happen on a regular basis. Depending on where they are, you may go ‘Okay, wait a second.’ And then we had a second call. And then there was a sheriff’s deputy that responded to the scene and then ultimately did not answer their radio,” he said. “Officers did respond, make sure that he was safe, the scene was safe, and they moved on.”
The shelter-in-place orders disrupted life for the roughly 48 hours they were in place, largely keeping restaurants, shops, convenience stores, and other businesses closed as police kept up their search for Card.
Sauschuck said he understood that shelter-in-place orders could have a negative impact on residents.
“We had very pointed threats early on (in) reference to these locations, and nothing specific since then,” he said.
Sauschuck said investigators found a note at one of the residences they searched but declined to offer more details about its contents.
“I’m not prepared to really talk about what that included. And I think that’s probably, again, a common sense answer because that does involve is there a mindset here, is there motive, what did that entail? So we’ll definitely continue to work on that and when we can release it, we certainly will,” he said.
The two shooting incidents Wednesday took place only minutes apart and FBI investigators initially interviewed around 70 witnesses that night, Sauschuck said.
Police said they first received a 911 call at 6:56 p.m. for a male shooting a firearm at Just-In-Time Recreation. Only minutes later, at 7:08 p.m., police received multiple 911 calls for an active shooter inside Schemengees Bar and Grille Restaurant.
Sauschuck said police were on both scenes within minutes of the calls. Plainclothes officers who were shooting at a range down the street from Just-In-Time Recreation arrived at the bowling alley just a minute after the call came in, he said.
“They don’t have radios, they weren’t in uniform, they hear it as they’re at the range, they respond to the address immediately, and then they address the threat and clear the building,” he said.
Seven people were killed at Just-In-Time Recreation, one female and six males, from gunshot wounds, Maine State Police Col. William Ross said Thursday. Seven males were killed inside Schemengees Bar and Grille Restaurant and one male outside the establishment was also killed, Ross said.
The arrest warrant for Card could later include more murder counts, Ross said Thursday.
Sauschuck said Friday that prosecutors with Attorney General Aaron Frey’s office were trying to complete the rest of the murder warrants “in a timely fashion now that those individuals had been identified and the families notified.”
A spokesperson for Frey’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“I’ll have that answer for you tomorrow morning at 10 o’clock, for sure,” Sauschuck said, referencing a briefing scheduled for Saturday morning.