Maine State Police Public Safety Commissioner Michael Sauschuck addresses the media Friday morning from Lewiston City Hall. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

The families of the 18 people who died from Wednesday night’s mass shooting spent hours without information on their loved ones.

Some waited in pain for as long as 17 hours wondering if their friend or family member was a victim of the gunman who killed people playing pool and cornhole at Schemengees Bar & Grille and bowling at Just-In-Time Recreation in Lewiston.

Earlier Friday, Public Safety Commissioner Mike Sauschuck said families of only eight people who died in the shootings had been notified as of Friday morning, but then corrected himself at a 5 p.m. press briefing.

“I was wrong,” he said of his earlier communication, noting police were using three different lists of victims and he’d made a mistake. He said at the conference that all families had been notified about the deaths of their next of kin.

The Office of Chief Medical Examiner, the state body responsible for investigating violent deaths, had identified all 18 people who died as of Thursday afternoon. It is unclear when all families had been notified.

It is clear that families and friends waited long hours before hearing any news.


Rob Young was pacing in the front yard of his sister-in-law’s home in Winthrop when law enforcement officers pulled up to the house and got out of their vehicle. “They’re both dead, aren’t they?” Young asked the officers.

“Yes,” they responded, confirming his worst fears.

Maine Shooting-Victims

This poster provided by the Maine Department of Public Safety shows victims of the Maine Shooting. According to Maine State Police, seven people died Wednesday night, at Just-In-Time Recreation bowling alley. Six were male and one was female. Eight more people, all male, died at Schemengees Bar & Grille. Three others died after being taken to hospitals. Maine Department of Public Safety

Rob lost his brother, Bill Young and his 14-year-old nephew, Aaron Young, in the Lewiston mass shooting on Wednesday night. But he didn’t know that they were dead until 17 hours after the shooting, when law enforcement arrived on Thursday at 2 p.m. to notify him and his family.

Without information, they were left to wait in an anguish-filled limbo. The 17 hours were hell, Young said.

Having to wait a day or more to learn the names of victims “obviously adds to the stress and trauma everyone is already feeling,” said Michael Rocque, associate professor of sociology at Bates College in Lewiston, who helped conduct a study of mass shootings between 1976 and 2018. “Even for people who don’t know anyone who was a victim, waiting to know who died or who is unaccounted for can be very hard. To be someone who doesn’t know if their friend or family member is a victim or where they are, is something that’s just unfathomable.”

Rocque said that the wait for victims’ names was probably made even more trying by the fact that the shooting suspect remained at large for two days, which is very rare. The study Rocque worked on, called “The Nature, Trends, Correlates, and Prevention of Mass Public Shootings” found that of 169 shooters, only two were never found or identified. Most were either killed or arrested, at the scene or fairly soon after the event, Rocque said.


Now that he knows his family members have passed, Young is angry. He’s angry that he and his family had to wait in the dark, wondering if they would ever see Aaron and Bill again. He’s infuriated that the police, the hospitals, the Attorney General’s office, didn’t pass on any information. He’s incensed that he still doesn’t know when and where Bill and Aaron died.

“I woke up this morning hoping it was all a nightmare,” Young said Friday in an interview. “But this is reality.”

Every path Young, along with his sister-in-law Cindy (Bill’s wife and Aaron’s mother), went down looking for information about their loved ones was a dead end.

They still don’t know if Bill and Aaron died at Just-In-Time Recreation bowling alley, where they were shot, in transport, or at a hospital. They don’t know what hospital they are or were in. As of Friday afternoon, they still didn’t know where the bodies of their family members were.

As soon as he heard about the shooting, Young, who lives in Maryland, booked a flight to Maine. Once he arrived at Cindy’s in Winthrop on Thursday mid-morning, Young and Cindy started making calls.

They repeatedly called a Maine state police dispatch line, holding out hope as the phone rang that someone would pick up. But each time it went to voicemail. After around five calls, the line stopped ringing all together, going straight to voicemail. They tried the state Attorney General’s office. They couldn’t get through to anyone there either. Not knowing what hospital their family members might be in, they called Maine Medical Center in Portland, Massachusetts General in Boston, Central Maine Medical Center in Leweiston. All the hospitals said they couldn’t tell them who was there.


The Youngs were not the only ones desperately searching for information in the aftermath of the shooting.

Others, including the family and friends of Maxx Hathaway, who is now known to be dead, were desperate for news.

“This is Maxx, my god daughters dad, he was last seem at schemengees (SIC) during the shooting. Hasn’t been seen or heard from since,” wrote Kayla Ricker in a Facebook post at 7:18 a.m. on Thursday, around 12 hours after the shooting.

“We’re desperate for answers,” she continued. “If anyone had seen him there and knows absolutely anything please message me.”

Ricker updated the post Thursday night.

“Unfortunately,” she wrote. “Maxx did not make it out of this.”


Long waits for information are not unusual for this type of mass shooting event, said University of Southern Maine Police Chief Grainne Perkins.

“In this type of situation accuracy is the most important thing,” said Perkins, who is not involved in the mass shooting investigation. “The worst thing you can do is give someone the wrong information.”

Perkins said that she knows the time waiting for information is unbelievably difficult for families, but that law enforcement must move slowly and intentionally to ensure that any information shared is accurate.

“In this type of event with this type of scale you do not want to get anything wrong,” she said.

Press Herald Staff Writer Ray Routhier and Kennebec Journal Staff Writer Emily Duggan contributed to this report. 




• Nationwide confidential help line: 988
• Maine crisis hotline: 1-888-568-1112
• Maine’s warm-line for non-crisis calls: 1-866-771-9276
• Other state resources in Maine: 211


• Guidance about how to talk to children about the shooting
• More from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network
• Support for educators: 207-221-8196 or text 898-211 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.

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