Tammy Asselin and her 10-year-old daughter Toni survived the shooting at Just-In-Time Recreation in Lewiston on Wednesday. It was 45 minutes after shots rang out before the mother found out her daughter had survived. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

With her daughter’s first game of the night over, Tammy Asselin was boxing up leftovers at Just-In-Time Recreation in Lewiston as parents and children mingled around her. The bowling alley was full of families and the familiar sounds of rolling balls and falling pins.

A loud sound pierced the air and Asselin’s eyes went straight to the other side of the alley, where Bob and Lucy Violette were coaching kids from the Lewiston-Auburn Youth Bowling League.

“My first thought was something fell that was super heavy,” she said.

Then she saw someone running down the lanes. A second blast rang out and a person behind the counter dropped to the floor. It was only then that Asselin, who had never heard a gunshot before, realized what was happening.

There was a shooter in the building.

As people ran everywhere – toward the pin-setting machines, out the emergency exits, to corners of the room – Asselin tripped over a bowling bag and lost track of her 10-year-old daughter Toni. She lay flat on the floor with another family member behind a table and booth they flipped over to barricade themselves. She could think only of her daughter. Had she bolted toward the gunman? Is she hiding?


“The direction he was shooting in was where all the kids were with their parents,” she said.

There were several more shots and then quiet.

Agonizing minutes passed as they waited for police to arrive. Asselin, who is a stay-at-home mother, called her father at 7:03 p.m. and he rushed to try to get to them. Finally, at 7:47 p.m., a call came in notifying her Toni had been rushed out an emergency exit by her coach. They ran to a nearby Subway, where they hid in bushes until someone came to bring them to a nearby house.

“It felt like hours had passed,” Asselin said Friday. “It feels like time stood still.”

Tammy Asselin and her 10-year-old daughter Toni survived the bowling alley shooting on Wednesday. Toni plays with a Lego ambulance at a family members home on Friday afternoon. Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald

After police arrived and took them out of the building, Asselin was grouped with other survivors. In the hours they were together as they waited to be questioned by detectives, they started sharing details about what happened inside the bowling alley.

“I feel blessed that my daughter is safe, then I hear a woman calling out saying, ‘I can’t believe my sister is dead,’ ” Asselin said.


Within minutes she realized the woman who died was Tricia Asselin, who was married to her cousin.

“I had to make the horrendous phone call to the family to let them know she was no longer with us,” Tammy Asselin said through tears. “I hadn’t seen her on the opposite side of the bowling alley. I would have hugged her and caught up with her. I didn’t even get a chance to see her.”

The next morning, Asselin was finally able to reunite with her daughter, who had spent the night with her grandparents. She could tell her daughter hadn’t started to process what had happened. Over the last two days, they have had very difficult conversations about the people they know who died. Toni, who had never experienced death, told her mother she saw people as they were shot.

“It’s overwhelming. We lost so many special people,” Asselin said.

The enormity of what happened finally started to sink in Thursday night. Toni is fearful and doesn’t want to be left alone. She has peppered her mother with questions she can’t answer: Why us? Why the bowling alley? Why the kids?

Emily Braley, right, the sister of Benjamin Dyer, and Keela Smith, Dyer’s girlfriend, outside of Central Maine Medical Center where Dyer is being treated in Lewiston on Friday. Dyer was at Schemengees Bar & Grille where he was playing cornhole with friends. They said Dyer had just been taken off a ventilator, and the first thing he said to them was, “I want to live.” Brianna Soukup/Portland Press Herald



About 10 minutes after police arrived at the bowling alley, the shooter stopped at Schemengees Bar & Grille about 4 miles south in Lewiston.

There, Ben Dyer was playing in a cornhole tournament with friends he had known for years. He was filling in for another friend on a league that plays there on Wednesdays.

Dyer was shot and rushed to Central Maine Medical Center. Nearly two days later, he was taken off of a ventilator. His first words were “I want to live.”

Dyer is among the four victims who remained hospitalized at CMMC as of Friday afternoon. Three were in critical condition and one in stable condition, according to a hospital spokesperson. Two others were discharged earlier in the day and another patient was transferred to Massachusetts General Hospital.

Keela Smith, Benjamin Dyer’s girlfriend, closes her eye for a moment while his sister, Emily Braley, speaks about him to members of the media in Lewiston on Friday. Dyer was at Schemengees Bar & Grille on Wednesday and was being treated at the hospital. Brianna Soukup/Portland Press Herald

Dyer’s sister Emily Braley and his girlfriend Keela Smith met with reporters outside the hospital on Friday to share the news about his condition. They’d spent almost every hour with Dyer, they said. Days have become a blur. They’re hopeful his two young children can visit him soon, but they know his road to recovery will be a long one.

Braley said that while she’s grateful Dyer is improving, other families impacted by Wednesday night’s shootings aren’t so fortunate.


“As much as I want to be angry at the situation that we’ve been put in, we were there with some families when they were informed that their loved ones didn’t make it,” Braley said Friday. “Our hearts go out to them. It’s been a difficult situation for everybody.”


Justin Karcher, 23, of Auburn remains in the intensive care unit at CMMC, where he is being treated for four gunshots. Doctors told his mother and sister that he was the first person shot at Schemengees. He was hit in the shoulder, liver, spinal cord and stomach.

Karcher, who is in a coma and on a ventilator, was in surgery Friday evening, said his sister, Haley Breton.

Breton and her mother, Jessica Karcher, had rushed to the hospital Wednesday night as soon as they heard reports about the active shooter at Schemengees. Justin was there watching a friend and the friend’s father play in a pool tournament. Earlier that day, he closed on his first home.

His family waited for several hours to find out it he was alive and for details about his condition.


The wait was agonizing for Breton, who was at times frustrated that nurses and doctors couldn’t tell waiting families more about what was going on. The next morning, when Breton called for an update on his condition, there was confusion about whether he was still alive. She felt stiff as she walked into the ICU unit to see him.

“I didn’t know if I was going to walk into him being OK or gone,” she said. “My thoughts were lost.”

This is not the first time that Justin Karcher’s family has experienced violence. In 2019, when Karcher was 19, his biological father, Jean Donald Fournier, was shot to death in front of his son.

Breton, who started a GoFundMe that has so far raised more than $14,000 to help with her brother’s expenses, said the family is now focused on supporting Karcher in what is expected to be a long recovery. They’re also grappling with the emotional weight of what they’re going through.

At some point, they’ll have to tell Karcher that his friend and his friend’s father died in the shooting. That’s going to break him, his sister said.

“It’s mixed emotions everywhere,” Breton said. “I don’t even know what to think or what to say or what to feel.”


Another survivor, Tom Giberti, was among those shot at Just-In-Time Recreation. He posted on social media Friday thanking people for an outpouring of support that has been, he said, “too much to comprehend.”

A family member of Giberti’s said Thursday that Giberti had successful surgery after he was shot four times in the left leg and once in the right leg while attempting to help several youth bowlers make it to safety out the back of the alley.

Giberti, who is a manager at Just-In-Time, said he still has no idea how long he’ll be in the hospital. “Thank you everyone for your love and prayers. I’ve never been one for the spotlight and not sure how to handle it. Love you all,” he said.

Sun Journal Staff Writer Andrew Rice 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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