LEWISTON, Maine (AP) — A U.S. Army reservist who opened fire at a Maine bowling alley and a bar earlier this week and killed 18 people purchased his weapons legally, authorities said Saturday, adding he likely launched his rampage as a result of underlying mental health issues.
The body of Robert Card, a firearms instructor, was found Friday at a recycling center in Lisbon Falls that police had searched a day earlier. Card died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, authorities said.
The 40-year-old Card of Bowdoin was suspected of also injuring 13 people during the shooting rampage on Wednesday night in Lewiston.
State Department of Public Safety Commissioner Michael Sauschuck said law enforcement scoured the Maine Recycling Corp. property, where Card once worked, on Thursday night. Sauschuck said another state police team returned Friday to the site, which has about 60 trailers, and found Card’s body alongside several guns in a trailer that hadn’t been searched.
Jim Ferguson, the ATF special agent in charge in Boston, told The Associated Press that the weapons used in the shooting had been purchased legally. Many firearms were recovered although he declined to say their make, model or how many exactly.
“There were a lot more than three,” Ferguson said.
At a press conference, Sauschuck said Card had a history of mental illness. As for why Card chose his targets, Sauschuck said it was likely due to paranoia, that “people were talking about him and there may even have been some voices at play.”
He did not elaborate. But Sauschuck said there was no evidence that Card had ever been involuntarily committed to a mental health facility. A simple evaluation or voluntary commitment would not have triggered a prohibition on owning a gun, he said.
Under Maine’s yellow flag law, law enforcement can detain someone they suspect is mentally ill and poses a threat to themselves or others. The law differs from red flag laws in that it requires police first to get a medical practitioner to evaluate the person and find them to be a threat before police can petition a judge to order the person’s firearms to be seized.
“Just because there appears to be a mental health nexus to this scenario, the vast majority of people with mental health diagnosis will never hurt anybody,” Sauschuck said.
He also said a note found in Card’s home was meant for a loved one with the passcode to his phone and bank account numbers. Sauschuck said he wouldn’t describe it as an explicit suicide note but that the tone indicated that was the intent.
Street life returned to Lewiston on Saturday after a dayslong lockdown in the city of 37,000. Joggers took advantage of the warm weather. People walked dogs through downtown and picked up coffee and visited other shops that had been closed since the shooting.
“Right now, we want Maine to be remembered as the community that came together after this tragic event,” said Lisbon Police Chief Ryan McGee, recalling how he drove into town Saturday and saw ”people walking the streets, people sitting on porches, waving. Giving the thumbs up.”
The deadliest shootings in Maine history stunned a state of 1.3 million people that has relatively little violent crime and had only 29 killings in all of 2022. In Lewiston, residents residents and those in surrounding communities had been told to stay in their homes as hundreds of police officers, sheriff’s deputies, FBI agents and other law enforcement officials swarmed the area.
The stay at home order was lifted Friday and hours later authorities announced they had found Card’s body.
Maine Gov. Janet Mills announced Card had been found dead at a Friday night news conference. Then, she called for the healing process to begin.
“Like many people I’m breathing a sigh of relief tonight knowing that Robert Card is no longer a threat to anyone,” Mills said.
Leo Madden, who said he ran Maine Recycling Corp. for decades, told the AP that Card worked there for a couple of years and nothing about him stood out. Madden said he didn’t remember when Card was employed or whether he was fired or quit. The facility is located in Lisbon Mills, not far from Lewiston.
“We understand that Maine Recycling Corporation (MRC) is now a part of this tragic story, and as such, we continue to assist this investigation in every way possible,” the company said in a statement.
Last summer, Card underwent a mental health evaluation after he began acting erratically during Army training, a U.S. official told the AP. A bulletin sent to police across the country shortly after the attack said Card had been committed to a mental health facility for two weeks after “hearing voices and threats to shoot up” a military base.
The military said Card was training with the Army Reserve’s 3rd Battalion, 304th Infantry Regiment in West Point, New York, when commanders became concerned about him. State police took Card to the Keller Army Community Hospital at West Point for evaluation.
On Wednesday, Card attacked the bowling alley first, then went to the bar. Police were quickly sent to both locations but Card was able to escape. For the next two days authorities scoured the woods and hundreds of acres of Card’s family-owned property, and sent dive teams with sonar to the bottom of the nearby Androscoggin River.
Law enforcement officials said Card’s vehicle was left at a boat ramp Wednesday shortly after the shootings.
The Maine Department of Public Safety said it would open a Family Assistance Center in Lewiston starting Saturday morning to offer help and support to victims at the Lewiston Armory.
The Maine Educational Center for the Deaf said the shootings killed at least four members of their community.
The Cards have lived in Bowdoin for generations, neighbors said, and various members of the family own hundreds of acres in the area. The family owned the local sawmill and years ago donated the land for a local church.
Family members of Card told federal investigators that he had recently discussed hearing voices and became more focused on the bowling alley and bar, according to the law enforcement officials who spoke on condition of anonymity. When he was hospitalized in July in New York, Card had told military officials he had been hearing voices and said he wanted to harm other soldiers, the officials said.
Sauschuck praised Card’s family for calling investigators to provide his name to law enforcement soon after police released surveillance pictures of the shooter.
“This family has been incredibly cooperative with us,” Sauschuck said. “Truth be told the first three people that called us … were family members.”
The Lewiston shootings were the 36th mass killing in the United States this year, according to a database maintained by The Associated Press and USA Today in partnership with Northeastern University.
Whittle from Portland, Maine. Associated Press journalists who also contributed: Robert Bukaty and Robert Bumsted in Lewiston; Michael Balsamo in New York; and Michael Casey in Boston.