As ain Lewiston, Maine, one survivor of the deadly rampage says he raced down a bowling lane and hid within the machinery behind the pins to escape the gunman.
Harrowing stories began to emerge early Thursday as police searched for a person of interest, identified as 40-year-old Robert Card, after the rampage at Schemengees Bar and Grille and at Sparetime Recreation, a bowling alley about 4 miles away. At least 20 people were killed in the shootings Wednesday night, law enforcement officials told CBS News, but the exact toll was not yet known.
One bowler, who identified himself only as Brandon, said he heard about 10 shots, thinking the first was a balloon popping.
“I had my back turned to the door. And as soon as I turned and saw it was not a balloon – he was holding a weapon – I just booked it,” he told The Associated Press.
Brandon said he scrambled down the length of the alley, sliding into the pin area and climbing up to hide in the machinery. He was among a busload of survivors who were driven to a middle school in the neighboring city of Auburn to be reunited with family and friends.
“I was putting on my bowling shoes when it started. I’ve been barefoot for five hours,” he said.
Melinda Small, the owner of Legends Sports Bar and Grill, said her staff immediately locked their doors and moved all 25 customers and employees away from the doors after a customer reported hearing about the shooting at the bowling alley less than a quarter-mile away. Soon, the police flooded the roadway and a police officer eventually escorted everyone out of the building.
“I am honestly in a state of shock. I am blessed that my team responded quickly and everyone is safe,” Small said. “But at the same time, my heart is broken for this area and for what everyone is dealing with. I just feel numb.”
A police bulletin identified Card as a person of interest in the attack that sent panicked bowlers scrambling behind pins when shots rang out around 7 p.m. According to a Maine law enforcement bulletin seen by CBS News, Card is a trained firearms instructor believed to be in the Army reserve stationed out of Saco, Maine.
The document, circulated to law enforcement officials, said Card had been committed to a mental health facility for two weeks in the summer of 2023. It did not provide details about his treatment or condition but said Card had reported “hearing voices and threats to shoot up” the military base. A telephone number listed for Card in public records was not in service.
After the shooting, police, many armed with rifles, took up positions while the city descended into eerie quiet — punctuated by occasional sirens — as people hunkered down at home. Schools were closed Thursday in Lewiston, Lisbon and Auburn, as well as municipal offices in Lewiston.
The Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office released two photos of the suspect on its Facebook page that showed the shooter walking into an establishment with a weapon raised to his shoulder.
On its website, Central Maine Medical Center said staff were “reacting to a mass casualty, mass shooter event” and were coordinating with area hospitals to take in patients. The hospital was locked down and police, some armed with rifles, stood by the entrances.
Meanwhile, hospitals as far away as Portland, about 35 miles (56 kilometers) to the south, were on alert to potentially receive victims.
An order for residents and business owners to stay inside and off the streets of the city of 37,000 was extended Wednesday night from Lewiston to Lisbon, about 8 miles away, after a “vehicle of interest” was found there, authorities said.
Gov. Janet Mills released a statement echoing instructions for people to shelter. She said she had been briefed on the situation and will remain in close contact with public safety officials.
President Joe Biden spoke by phone to Mills and the state’s Senate and House members, offering “full federal support in the wake of this horrific attack,” a White House statement said.
Maine Sen. Angus King, an independent, said he was “deeply sad for the city of Lewiston and all those worried about their family, friends and neighbors” and was monitoring the situation. King’s office said the senator would be headed directly home to Maine on the first flight possible.