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Police find body of Robert Card, perpetrator of Maine massacre, in forest

The military reservist killed 18 people with a semi-automatic rifle at a bowling alley and a restaurant and had been missing since Wednesday

masacre in maine
Members of the security forces deployed to find Robert Card, on Friday, in Monmouth, Maine.CJ GUNTHER (EFE)
Iker Seisdedos
Lewiston (Maine) -

The desperate search for Robert Card, perpetrator of the shooting rampage at a Lewiston bowling alley and restaurant that has had Maine on edge for the past 48 hours, ended Friday night with the announcement that police had found his body not far from where he was last seen, near a recycling plant in neighboring Lisbon where he was previously an employee and next to which he abandoned his white SUV after killing 18 people and injuring 13 others on Wednesday night. Initial reports said that Card, whose body was located at 7.45 p.m. local time and showed signs of gunshot wounds, appeared to have taken his own life.

The suspect was still dressed in the same attire he had been wearing when he was recorded on security cameras at the Just-In-Time Recreation bowling alley in Lewiston where, armed with a military-style rifle equipped with a scope, he began his macabre rampage. He subsequently drove through Lewiston - a quiet town of about 40,000 people and the second most-populous in Maine - to Schemengees Bar & Grille Restaurant, where he continued his killing spree before making his getaway.

The two locations he selected to unleash terror were places where he used to frequent with his girlfriend, with whom he recently broke up. If the initial reports are confirmed, the scene where he decided to take his life also had some emotional significance for Card, a 40-year-old reserve serviceman who was placed on a two-week watch this summer because of his mental health problems. Apparently, the gun he used in the killing spree was purchased earlier this year.

A store and gas station are closed due to a lockdown in Lewiston, Maine on October 26, 2023, in the aftermath of the mass shooting.
A store and gas station are closed due to a lockdown in Lewiston, Maine on October 26, 2023, in the aftermath of the mass shooting.JOSEPH PREZIOSO (AFP)

Timeline of manhunt for Card

The most pressing question after the where of the end of the search for Card was revealed is the when – did he take his own life immediately after the shootings, or was he on the run for days beforehand? At an impromptu press conference held after 10 p.m. at the Lewiston Town Hall, the local authorities offered no answers, before calling the press on Saturday morning to expand on the information they have.

What is clear at the moment is that, at around 2 p.m. Thursday, the area where the body was eventually found was cordoned off for officers to search and that a huge detour would have been necessary to get out of Lisbon. On Friday morning, state official Michael Sauschuk, the spokesman for the tragedy, explained that the search would be concentrated not far from there, in a bend of the Androscoggin River, where frogmen were ordered to look for “possible bodies” underwater. Hours earlier, police were deployed in force in the town of Bowdoin, Card’s last residence, where they attempted to persuade him to turn himself in with a megaphone.

Hundreds of local, county, state, and federal agents from all over the United States were deployed day and night in the manhunt. During the press conference following the discovery of the body, Maine Governor Janet Mills said the end of the operation marked the beginning of “a long and difficult road to healing.”

Mills added the community’s thoughts were with the families of the 18 victims - 16 men and two women - whose identities were not confirmed until Friday afternoon, three hours before they found the body of the man who took their lives. Eight died in the restaurant; seven died in the bowling alley; and three did not survive the night after being rushed to Lewiston hospital. They ranged in age from 14 to 76, and among them were four deaf people, a father and son, and a married couple in their 70s.

Sauschuk explained that the authorities delayed announcing the news that has brought peace of mind back to the towns of Lewiston, Lisbon, and Bowdoin until they were able to inform the families of the victims, as well as Card’s relatives, of the discovery of the body. “After all,” Sauschuk said, “they too have lost a loved one, and they have been a great help during the investigation.”

Card left his son a farewell note, the contents of which have not yet been revealed, although CNN reported that in it, Card stated that he did not expect to be alive when it was found. The discovery of his body and the indications that he committed suicide now cast doubts on the appropriateness of the authorities’ decision to ask citizens not to leave their homes for 48 hours. On Friday afternoon the confinement order was lifted, but hunting, a favorite pastime in these depopulated rural communities, was banned. The prohibition, though, never went into effect: it was rescinded as soon as it became known that law enforcement had found the killer.

The Lewiston massacre is the deadliest mass shooting in America so far this year, and the 10th deadliest in U.S. history. Maine, with its passion for the outdoors, is one of the easiest states in the country to buy a gun. Until now, it was also one of the safest: last year there were only 29 homicides in a state of just over 1.3 million people. The Gun Violence Archive, which tracks shootings in the United States, has 567 in its tally for 2023. In 2022, the figure for the year stood at 645.

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