The deadliest mass shooting in Maine history started inside a crowded Lewiston bowling alley on Wednesday evening during youth league.

Just-in-Time Recreation in Lewiston was filled with children and parents, the sounds of balls striking pins, and the smell of chicken wings, burgers and pizza.

Few noticed the man when he first walked through the doors wearing casual clothes but holding an AR-style rifle, pointed out in front of him as if ready for combat.

It was a few minutes before 7 p.m.

Shots were fired almost immediately and followed in rapid succession. Witnesses said it sounded like balloons popping or something crashing.

Patrons dropped to the floor or began running. One man scampered up a bowling lane and climbed behind the mechanism that resets the pins to hide.


It felt like eternity to survivors inside the alley, even though it lasted just a few minutes.

“We were trapped,” said Riley Dumont, who was there with her 10-year-old daughter and family. “There was no exit for us.”

Before police could sort out what had happened, there were reports of another shooting at Schemengees Bar & Grille, about 4 miles away. The gunman opened fire while patrons enjoyed a late dinner or drinks and played billiards and cornhole.

The next few hours unfolded in chaos.

Emergency responders fill Lincoln Street Wednesday night in Lewiston. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Police mobilized from every nearby agency to begin searching for a suspect, or suspects. Ambulances, sirens blaring, raced along city streets to transport gunshot victims to local hospitals, while LifeFlight helicopters hovered overhead to help carry more critical patients to hospitals farther away.

Crowds gathered to see if loved ones were at Central Maine Medical Center, while stretchers lined up outside.


A shelter-in-place order was issued for Lewiston, then nearby Lisbon, then all of Androscoggin County.

Information about the shootings spilled out on social media websites, where fact and rumor blurred.

By late evening, a reunification center had been set up at the middle school in Auburn for families to get what information there was about if their loved ones were unharmed, at a hospital or dead.

A man and woman embrace at the reunification center shortly after midnight Thursday morning at Auburn Middle School in Auburn. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

By Thursday morning, police confirmed that 18 people had been killed in a state that has averaged 23 homicides annually over the past decade, most of them connected to domestic violence. It was the 10th-deadliest mass shooting in the U.S. since 1949.

Thirteen more people were wounded, some critically.

The entire southern half of the state ground to a halt as police continued their manhunt for a suspect, quickly identified as Robert Card, a 40-year-old Army reservist who spent weeks this summer in a mental health facility and had threatened violence before.


Schools closed. Businesses, too. Even venerable outdoor retailer L.L. Bean, which never closes. As evening approached, high school sporting events were canceled, and concerts. It was almost as if the state was frozen in shock, unsure of what to do next or scared to do anything until the shooter was caught. Many of those closures and cancellations extended into Friday, and a growing sense of unease that Card could be anywhere enveloped the state.

It finally ended late Friday when police discovered Card’s body inside a box trailer at Maine Recycling Corp., about a mile from where his car was found. Police had cleared that location on two occasions before they learned from the owner that the business had an overflow parking lot across the street. Card died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

At a hastily called press conference, Gov. Janet Mills told Mainers they could breathe a sigh of relief, but she also acknowledged that Card’s death “may not bring solace to the victims of this tragedy.”

Gov. Janet Mills speaks to the media Friday night at Lewiston City Hall, announcing that Robert Card was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Although mass shootings have become all too familiar in this country, there had never been anything like this in Maine, which is regarded as an uncommonly safe place. There has always been a sense that it couldn’t happen here even though the state has some of the nation’s most relaxed gun laws coupled with a high rate of gun ownership.

“This attack strikes at the very heart of who we are and the values we hold dear for this precious place we call home,” Mills said Thursday morning, not long after many had woken up to the news. “All Maine people are sharing in the sorrow of the families who lost loved ones last night, loved ones who were killed or injured while unwinding from a day at work or while spending time with their family and friends.”

“I know that the people of Lewiston are enduring immeasurable pain. I wish I could take that pain from you, but I promise you this, we will all help you carry this grief.”


At the same time as police ramped up their frantic search for Card and investigated the circumstances that culminated in Wednesday’s tragedy, attention turned to the victims as identifications were made, unofficially at first.

Among the dead were Bob and Lucy Violette, a local couple who had made bowling an anchor in life after they retired. Bob Violette was a lifelong Lewiston resident who grew up speaking French and going to Catholic church in the former mill town once known for its large percentage of French Catholics. He was a founder of the youth bowling league at Sparetime, which became Just-in-Time, and the couple were there Wednesday to watch.

Robert E. and Lucille M. Violette

His daughter-in-law Cassandra Violette said he died while trying to shield children from harm.

“He loved those kids, all of them,” she said of the young bowlers.

Lucy Violette was shot, too, and taken to a nearby hospital, where she later died. They would soon have celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.

* * *


Just-in-Time Recreation is located about 3 miles outside of downtown Lewiston. It’s the type of all-ages hangout common in many midsized communities, the kind of place where parents can avoid cooking and cleanup for a night and teenagers can flirt.

On Wednesday, dozens of people occupied the 34 bowling lanes, and still more were seated at tables in the dining area when their evening out was interrupted.

An armed man whom police later identified as Robert Card points a gun Wednesday night while entering Just-In-Time Recreation in Lewiston. Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office

Witnesses said the shooter started firing indiscriminately. Security cameras inside the bowling alley captured images of him just inside the door wearing a brown sweatshirt and dark pants and holding a rifle. Those images spread fast on social media Wednesday evening before Card was identified.

He had been living in Bowdoin, about 15 miles east of Lewiston, but was a regular at the bowling alley and competed in an adult league, according to scores published in the Sun Journal.

Police have not said how many rounds were fired inside Just-in-Time, or what specific type of weapon was used, but seven people were killed there.

Chad Vincent was bowling with about two dozen people in a men’s league. He was just starting his fifth frame when he heard “a big pop.” His bowling partner shouted, “He’s got a gun,” and the entire group ran toward the back entrance to safety.


Vincent was among those who called 911.

Ten-year-old Zoey Levesque was inside the alley with her mother. A bullet grazed her leg, but she was unharmed.

“Why do people do this?” she later asked a reporter from WMTW-TV.

There was no answer.

On Thursday morning, about 15 hours after the shooting, Just-in-Time posted on its Facebook page:

“None of this seems real, but unfortunately it is. There are no words to fix this or make it better.”


Just 12 minutes after the first 911 call, the local dispatch center began receiving multiple calls that a man had entered Schemengees Bar & Grille, another popular gathering spot for locals.

Wednesday night was “industry night” at Schemengees, which meant a 25% discount for anyone who worked in the bar or restaurant industry. The restaurant doubles as a pool hall, has several pinball machines, and also hosts a cornhole league on Wednesdays. It was busy.

Nick Wilson, one of the founders of the Maine Cornhole Event group, wasn’t there Wednesday night but knew many who were. He said Card was a regular player there until several months ago. Maine Public Safety Commissioner Michael Sauschuck said later that Card was familiar with both shooting locations.

He opened fire, seemingly at random, while people tried to flee.

Eight who were shot at Schemengees died.

“My heart is crushed. I am at a loss for words. In a split second your world gets turn (sic) upside down for no good reason,” co-owner Kathy Lebel posted on Facebook.


Within minutes of the shooting at Schemengees, police and emergency medical personnel were on scene, but the suspect had fled.

In a Thursday news conference, Maine State Police Col. William Ross called the immediate aftermath of the two shootings a “fast-paced, fast-moving, very fluid scene, very dangerous scene that these guys and girls are going into.”

Among those taken from the scene by ambulance was Justin Karcher, who lives in Auburn and was out having drinks. He was struck four times and was in critical condition at Central Maine Medical Center as of late Saturday.

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

Wayne Rucker, of Lewiston, waits Friday to hear news from friends at the hospital while parked in downtown Lewiston. Rucker’s friend Justin Karcher was shot multiple times Wednesday at Schemengees Bar & Grille. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

* * *

The first patient arrived at CMMC at 7:24 p.m., less than a half-hour after the first 911 call.


Over the next 45 minutes, a total of 14 patients arrived. Eight were admitted, two quickly discharged, one transferred to Maine Medical Center in Portland. Three were declared dead.

Of the eight patients admitted, three were in critical condition as of Saturday.

Officers guard the entrance to the emergency department at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston on Wednesday night. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Dr. John Alexander, the hospital’s chief medical officer, said 25 doctors and care providers were working when the shootings began, but 60 were on hand before the night ended. Many off-duty workers came to the hospital to help, he said.

Tom Giberti was one of the injured. He works at the bowling alley part time and was shot several times in the legs while trying to help usher children out the back entrance. Giberti is also president of the Store Next Door, a nonprofit that works with the Lewiston School District to clothe and feed homeless kids in the city.

Outside the hospital, police patrolled with long guns.

The hospital resumed a semblance of normal operations Friday, but a noticeable law enforcement presence remained.


CEO Steven Littleson said the mood was somber. Most staff there have never dealt with anything like this.

“Their training and their skills take over during the event,” he told The Boston Globe. “Emotions and feelings take over afterward.”

Meanwhile, police had not located the shooter. Early reports – some from witnesses, some pure speculation – added a layer of confusion.

Just after 8 p.m. Wednesday, police released a photo of a suspect holding a rifle just inside the bowling alley and another of a white Subaru with a dark bumper that they believed may have belonged to the suspect.

The shelter-in-place order followed.

A sign on Lisbon Street asks the public to take shelter in Lewiston on Wednesday night following deadly mass shootings. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Only minutes later, there were posts on social media that there was another shooting in Lewiston, at the Walmart Distribution Center. That report turned out to be mercifully erroneous.


Other false reports emerged – that there might be more than one shooter, that the shooter or shooters were Middle Eastern.

At 9:26 p.m., the Lewiston Police Department received a call identifying the man in the photos at the bowling alley as Robert Card, 40, of Bowdoin.

But even that created confusion. People looked up the name and found another man who shared it but was several years younger and lived in Fairfield, not Bowdoin. That man had been arrested in 2016 for possession of child pornography and was a registered sex offender.

A video began to circulate on social media, taken from the top of a building looking down onto a Lewiston street. It showed police ordering a man to lie on the ground while shouting, “Don’t move!” Some assumed the short-lived manhunt was over.

But that man wasn’t Card, and police have not mentioned anything about it.

Shortly before 10 p.m., police in nearby Lisbon located the white Subaru at a boat launch at Miller Park, which is about 10 miles – a 20-minute drive – from Schemengees down Route 196.


The vehicle was registered to Card and looked to have been abandoned. A long gun, police later said, was found inside.

For about 48 hours, there were no confirmed sightings, although it turned out that Card’s body was found not far from his car.

* * *

By late Wednesday evening, there were conflicting reports of how many people were shot and how many killed, but all indications were that it would be the most horrific crime in the state’s history.

As family members scrambled to reach loved ones, the reunification center set up in Auburn opened about 11 p.m.

It was a place for people who had been at either the bowling alley or bar to go after they were interviewed by police.


Auburn Mayor Jason Levesque, speaking outside the school building, said everyone who came had the same look of shock.

There was relief, too, for those who found their loved ones there and got to hug them.

Joe Walker. Photo courtesy of Leroy Walker Sr.

But panic and fear gripped those who didn’t.

Leroy Walker Sr., a city councilor in Auburn, had gone to see if his son might be there. Joe Walker managed Schemengees and wasn’t answering his phone.

“Right now, we’re all thinking the worst,” the father said.

He later learned his son died trying to confront the gunman with a kitchen knife. Joe Walker was 57.


“If he was sitting here with me, he would just be so sorry about what has happened,” Leroy Walker said in an interview Thursday.

He addressed his son’s killer during an interview with CNN on Friday.

“You can’t run around this world hating people. If you do, these kinds of things will happen more and more,” he said. “Hate will never bring my son back.”

APTOPIX Maine Shooting

Lindsay Marlow, facing camera, hugs Courtney Majoros at a vigil in Lisbon on Saturday for the victims of Wednesday’s mass shootings in Lisbon. Majoros’ brother, Maxx Hathaway, was killed in the massacre. Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press

Brenda Hathaway showed up at the middle school on Thursday morning with her young daughter Lilian, looking for information about her husband, Maxx Hathaway. The family had been at Schemengees the night before, but Brenda and Lilian left early while Maxx stayed to play pool. She hadn’t heard from him and started calling every hospital and everyone she knew.

It took nearly 20 hours for her to learn her husband was among the victims. Brenda is eight months pregnant.

* * *


Police worked overnight to locate Card, who was now wanted for multiple murders.

At one point Thursday, 350 local, state and federal law enforcement personnel took part in the search.

Helicopters buzzed low in the sky as far away as Bangor, but police were heavily searching areas of Bowdoin, where Card lived, and Lisbon, which is between Lewiston and Bowdoin. Both rural towns saw roads blocked and armed police standing outside cruisers.

A helicopter flies low, searching the Androscoggin River in Lisbon, as the search for suspect Robert Card continued on Friday. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

One report Thursday morning suggested the suspect may have crossed into Massachusetts in a different vehicle. Like so many other leads, that turned out to be unfounded.

Schools in southern and central Maine were closed, and some parents had to have uncomfortable conversations with their children. Many stores were closed, too. The streets of Lewiston and towns nearby were as quiet as they’ve been since the early days of the pandemic.

By now, the entire country had its eyes on Lewiston as the latest mass shooting site, joining Uvalde, Newtown, Sutherland Springs, Parkland and so many others.


Police shared little at a Thursday morning news conference, which only grew the sense of anxiety.

More information had come out about Card, who struggled with mental health, and people wanted to know what his motive might have been and what he might do next. They were trying to make sense of something that was senseless.

As Thursday wore on, there were glimmers that police might be closing in on the suspect.

Shortly before 2 p.m., residents in northern Sagadahoc and northern Androscoggin counties received phone alerts to shelter in place and to “make sure your homes and vehicles are secure.”

By late afternoon, police had converged outside a home in Bowdoin that was owned by Card’s brother and sister-in-law but that a neighbor said was unoccupied. Some officers stood in a large field, with long guns drawn. A helicopter whirred overhead.

Witnesses heard loud bangs, which some assumed were gunshots. A Maine State Police spokesperson said they were not.


The situation grew more tense. Police could be heard shouting to Card, “You’re under arrest,” and “We know you’re in there.” Reporters at the scene were told to turn off any camera lights.

Police vehicles leave the scene near the Card family farm along Meadow Road in Bowdoin on Thursday evening. Armored vehicles and SWAT teams were staged further up the road where loud bangs were earlier in the evening. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

But Card wasn’t inside.

The manhunt would extend into a third day.

A Coast Guard crew searched the Kennebec River for hours Thursday but found “nothing out of the ordinary,” a spokesman said.

On Friday, divers searched the water near the boat launch in Lisbon where Card’s vehicle was found. Still nothing.

Members of the Maine State Police Underwater Recovery Team use a ROV to search the Sabattus River on Friday afternoon at Miller Park in Lisbon. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Sauschuck seemed to acknowledge Friday morning that the trail might be growing cold.


“Every minute that this goes on, we’re more and more concerned,” he said.

Most mass shooters are captured right away or are killed, either by police or by suicide.

But Maine has seen high-profile manhunts in recent years following homicides.

In 2018, John Williams shot and killed Somerset County Sheriff Cpl. Eugene Cole and wasn’t caught for four days.

In 2015, Robert Burton killed his girlfriend, Stephanie Gebo, in the northern Maine town of Parkman and then hid out in the woods for more than two months before he turned himself in.

Neighbors said Card’s family has lived in Bowdoin for generations and owns hundreds of acres in the area.


“This is his stomping ground,” Richard Goddard, who lives on the road where the search took place, told the Associated Press. “He knows every ledge to hide behind, every thicket.”

Police confirmed Friday that a note thought to be written by Card was found at a home in Bowdoin. It was addressed to a family member and included his phone’s passcode and banking numbers, and its language suggested he didn’t expect to be found alive.

As it turned out, Card likely had taken his life only a short time after he ended the lives of 18 others.

A section of Capital Avenue that leads to the Maine Recycling Corporation where Robert Card’s body was found on Friday evening is blocked off by police Saturday. Brianna Soukup/Portland Press Herald

* * *

Lewiston is the second-largest city in Maine – with just over 36,000 people, it’s small by U.S. city standards – and like most places here, it feels like everyone is connected by a degree or two.

That’s the way it seemed when identities of shooting victims started to become known.


All of the victims were identified at a Friday evening press conference. They ranged in age from 14 to 76.

The 18 people killed in the Lewiston shooting. Top from left, Ronald G. Morin, Peyton Brewer-Ross, Joshua A. Seal, Bryan M. MacFarlane, Joseph Lawrence Walker, Arthur Fred Strout. Second row from left, Maxx A. Hathaway, Stephen M. Vozzella, Thomas Ryan Conrad, Michael R. Deslauiers II, Jason Adam, Tricia C. Asselin. Third Row from left, William A. Young, Aaron Young, Robert E. Violette and Lucille M. Violette, William Frank, Keith D. Macneir. Maine Department of Public Safety via AP

Most were men out enjoying a midweek evening of drinks and bowling or cornhole. Four were members of Maine’s Deaf community, which had a regular cornhole team at Schemengees.

Aaron Young, a freshman at Winthrop High School, was at Just-in-Time with his father, Bill Young, who also died. The boy had recently taken up bowling as a hobby, and his dad joined in.

“Aaron wanted to bowl, and Bill said, ‘Get in the car.’ He was a damn good dad,” said Rob Young, Bill’s brother.

Bryan MacFarlane was a member of the cornhole team, said his sister, Keri Brooks. She learned he had been killed when police showed up at their mother’s home Thursday morning.

She knew two of his teammates who were also killed.


MacFarlane had only recently moved back to Maine, where he grew up.

Another victim, Joshua Seal, also was a member of the close-knit Deaf community and became well-known for his regular presence at COVID-19 briefings during the pandemic. Former Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Nirav Shah posted about Seal on Friday.

“Here’s the thing about Maine,” Shah said. “It’s a small town with ‘very’ long driveways. As a result, many Mainers will know someone impacted by Wednesday night’s horrific events, either directly or indirectly. One of the victims was my friend and colleague, Josh Seal.”

“I marveled at his ability to interpret what we were saying at light speed – even my (awful) attempts at humor during dark days,” Shah said on X, formerly known as Twitter. “He never missed a beat … Rest in peace, Josh.”

Gov. Mills knew Seal well, too.

He leaves behind four children.


Lewiston police Chief Dave St. Pierre said late Friday when the identities of victims were made public at a news briefing that it was hard to look at their pictures.

“I know a couple of them myself,” he said, adding that many of his officers did, too. “But we press on.”

Sauschuck said so much effort right then was focused on what happened, but at some point, police will try to get to the why.

“There are certainly times that we can’t get to the why,” he said.

This might be one of those times. One of the biggest questions is what Card was doing in the days and hours before he entered Just-in-Time and then Schemengees, and whether the tragedy could have been averted. The gun found in Card’s vehicle and two others found near his body all were legally purchased.

Heather Bailey and her daughter, Ollie, 13, lean on each other Saturday during a Lisbon candlelight vigil for the victims of Wednesday’s mass shootings in Lewiston. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Before Wednesday, there were many parts of Maine where people didn’t bother to lock their doors. That sense of security was shattered, even if only temporarily. This country has seen mass shootings in schools, in movie theaters, in malls and churches. The list of places where people might feel safe is shrinking.

By Saturday morning, stores had reopened and the collective mood started to shift. A family support center was set up at the armory in Lewiston. There was no longer an imminent threat, but there were still 18 people dead, 18 sets of families grieving and searching for answers that might never come.

Although the horror happened in Lewiston, all of Maine seemed to bear its weight. The state was suspended and on edge, but it was together even as people hunkered down inside with their shades drawn waiting for the nightmare to end so their thoughts could turn to what will certainly be a long and painful recovery.

Heidi Patrie, right, gives a hug to a friend at a vigil Saturday in honor of the victims of the mass shootings in Lewiston. Patrie said her kids are very close with Joshua Seal’s children. Seal, who was a husband, father and a well-known American Sign Language interpreter in Maine, was one of the 18 people who lost their lives Wednesday. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

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