When a gunman entered Schemengees Bar & Grille in Lewiston on Oct. 25, cornhole player Ben Dyer heard a loud noise and then the all-too-obvious pop-pop-pop of a rapid-fire gun.

“A bunch of us dove to hide,” the Auburn man said, and waited in terror as the shooting continued. At least one bullet ripped through his right arm.

Lying on the ground, shocked and bleeding about 11 yards from the attacker, Dyer said he looked “straight in the face” of the man who had just shot him – a face he vaguely remembered from past cornhole competitions.

Then Robert Card again pulled the trigger on his semi-automatic Ruger AR-10-style rifle.

That shot cost the 47-year-old Dyer his right index finger.

Card kept shooting, over and over, until someone flicked off the lights and the killer fled.


By the time the firing ceased, Dyer had been hit in his shoulder, his arm and hands, perhaps by as many as five separate bullets.

With blood seeping out the wounds, the father of two realized he needed a tourniquet quickly or he would die. He got someone nearby to help, then a first responder who soon arrived used Dyer’s belt for an improved version.

Dyer said they loaded him in the back of a pickup truck and raced him down Lincoln Street to Central Maine Medical Center, fearing there wasn’t a moment to waste. They couldn’t wait for an ambulance.

Down several pints of blood and nursing grievous wounds by the time he reached the emergency room, it wasn’t clear Dyer would pull through.

He recalled last week that one thought kept going through his head throughout the ordeal: “Survive. Survive. Survive.”

“I’ve still got a life to live,” Dyer remembered thinking as medical professionals struggled to help him. Then he was out of it, on the operating room table.


Ben Dyer stands beside some wooden Christmas tree symbols outside Schemengees Bar & Grille to honor the 18 people slain in the Oct. 25 mass shooting in Lewiston. Dyer was badly injured by gunshots at the restaurant and knew many of the dead. Submitted photo

When Dyer woke up again two days later, an FBI agent stood beside him.

His first words? “I asked her where I could get one of her shirts” with FBI written in bold letters on it, Dyer said.

He credits the doctors, nurses, and other medical staff at the hospital with saving him during those crucial hours. “They did everything in their power,” he said.

Dyer wound up as one of the 13 wounded in the mass shooting that killed 18 at Just-In-Time Recreation on Mollison Way and at Schemengees. Card shot himself as well, two days later, dying alone in a recycling trailer in Lisbon.


Dyer, who is recuperating at his girlfriend Keela Smith’s home in Ellsworth, spent 19 days in the hospital before doctors gave him the green light to go home.


The major muscles in his right arm are mostly gone, he said, and lifting more than 10 pounds with that arm is unlikely, ever.

Ben Dyer with his children, Zoe, 10, and Liam, 12. Submitted photo

He’s working on his mauled right hand, with high hopes, but also learning how to write with his left one.

In short, as Dyer put it, “My life was changed forever.”

After growing up in Madawaska, in the heart of northern Maine’s St. John Valley, Dyer graduated from high school in 1995, a year after Smith.

He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree at the University of Southern Maine while working in landscape management at several Maine golf courses. A stint in education followed, when he earned a master’s degree from Saint Joseph’s College.

Almost nine years ago, Dyer took a job as the dock coordinator for Poland Springs.


“I was on the go,” he said. “I worked 12 hour shifts.”

When he wasn’t working, he said, Dyer spent time with his children – Liam, 12, and Zoe, 10 – and played as much cornhole as he could squeeze in.


Benjamin Dyer of Auburn holds a sign for Maineiacs Cornhole. Dyer is fighting to recover after a gunman badly wounded him during the Oct. 25 mass shooting in Lewiston. Submitted photo

Dyer said he always played in a league until this fall, including with “the Maniacs crew” in Portland which has more than 12 teams. He thought he wouldn’t have time to fully participate, so he decided he would serve as a substitute to fill in for a missing competitor.

On Wednesday, Oct. 25, Dyer had the day off. Working around his house in Auburn, he got a message about filling in for a cornhole match at Schemengees that night. He didn’t hesitate.

“Cornhole was kind of like my adult time,” he said, though his children were often part of it, too.


“It’s like family,” Dyer said. “Once you get into the cornhole community, it’s up and down the state, with the different groups, the different people, the different camaraderie and they all support each other.”

He said he loved the diversity of the people he met and played cornhole with, mentioning the Deaf community players who had become friends even though they couldn’t communicate 100% with him.

“On the boards we all understood each other,” Dyer said, “and with hand signals and everything else we were able to communicate and have a good time.”

That’s exactly what they were doing when Card walked in the door at Schemengees.


“This man did a sick thing,” Dyer said. “But he’s not going to ruin my life.”


“I’m a 47-year-old man starting over,” he said. “I’ve got a long road ahead of me.”

He said he told his baseball-loving son “I might not be able to throw baseball with you again, but my legs still work pretty well.”

“I can still teach him soccer,” Dyer added.

He said he’s constantly getting medical attention, including therapy sessions, and will be for a long time.

One day last week, Smith drove him down to Auburn from Ellsworth so he could see three different doctors. Then they raced back north because she had to get to work the next day.

“Every day I’m scheduling something new,” Dyer said.


It’s not clear what happens in the long run. It’s too distant, too removed where things are for survivors trying to figure out how to cope.

“’Now’ is a big word for us,” said Dyer, who talks or texts almost daily with a handful of other survivors.

Ben Dyer at the door of Schemengees Bar & Grille on Lincoln Street, the restaurant that’s been closed since the Oct. 25 mass shooting in Lewiston. Dyer spent 19 days recovering at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston. Submitted photo

“I’m a survivor. I’m not a victim anymore,” he said. “And survivors need to look forward and move on. … We’re able to communicate with each other, with people who understand exactly what happened that night … Everyone saw something different. Everyone heard something different. Everyone reacted differently.”

With Christmas fast approaching, sure to be different from every previous holiday, that bond means more than ever, he said.

“We’re surviving together,” Dyer said. “What path do I take from here? Who knows? But I’ll figure it out.”

He said he’s determined that he is “not going to let anything stop me from being a successful dad, a wonderful boyfriend, a great friend, a contributing member to society.”

“It’s going to it’s going to take time to get through this right now,” Dyer said, but call him in a year “and I’ll probably be back to work doing something and living the life I’m supposed to be living – and celebrating each day.”

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