Pollice in Maine intended to dredge the Androscoggin River with divers and sonar in search of US army reservist Robert R. Card, who they say is the mass shooter who killed 18 people this week at a bar and bowling alley in Lewiston.
Officials advised tens of thousands of local residents to take cover for their safety, indicating that the manhunt could last for several days.
Part of the search played out on live television Thursday night when officials executed several search warrants in the neighboring town of Bowdoin, where Card lives.
Law enforcement officials assembled at Card’s house, surrounded by woods and fields, for more than two hours, with an FBI agent issuing orders over a bullhorn to “come out with your hands up,” but apparently nobody was inside.
Mike Sauschuck, the Maine Department of Public Safety’s commissioner, said at a press conference on Friday that a note was found during the search, but declined to say who wrote it or what it said.
Lewiston, a former textile hub of 38,000 people, and neighboring communities have been largely shut down since the Wednesday evening attacks to enable hundreds of officers to conduct their search. Colleges and public schools in the area canceled classes for a second day.
“I will ask the community to be as patient as possible with this process,” Lewiston Police Chief David St. Pierre said at the press conference.
Asked if he was concerned that the trail is growing cold, Sauschuck said: “Every minute that this goes on we’re more and more concerned.”
There were almost no cars on the roads, just a few people outside, and many businesses in downtown Lewiston were closed. Security agents with rifles and bulletproof vests guarded the hospital where many of the shooting victims were taken. Officials said 13 other people were injured by gunfire.
Card, 40, is a sergeant at a nearby U.S. Army Reserve base who law enforcement officials said had been temporarily committed to a mental health facility over the summer.
On the night of the shootings, Maine State Police found a white SUV they believe Card used to get away parked at a boat launch on the Androscoggin River in Lisbon, about 7 miles (11 km) to the southeast of Lewiston. Public records show he owns at least one watercraft made by Sea-Doo, a company known for its jet skis.
The bloodshed rattled towns throughout Androscoggin County where residents were ordered to “shelter in place” as they joined the growing list of U.S. communities to suffer from a gun massacre.
“It’s a small town. You get to know everybody,” said Ken Spalding of Lisbon. “But I had told my wife a couple of years ago, ‘It’s not if, my dear. It’s when.'”
The number of U.S. shootings in which four or more people are shot is projected to reach 679 in 2023, up from 647 in 2022, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive.
The number of people killed in Wednesday’s attacks is close to the annual number of homicides that normally occur in Maine, which has fluctuated between 16 and 29 since 2012, according to Maine State Police.
The victims included Bill Young and his 14-year-old son Aaron, who were shot and killed at the Just-In-Time Recreation bowling alley, Bill’s brother Rob Young told Reuters.
Also among the dead was Bryan MacFarlane, 40, a member of a deaf community group participating in a cornhole tournament at Schemengees Bar & Grille when he was killed, his sister Keri Brooks told CNN.
Guns are lightly regulated in Maine, where about half of all adults live in a household with a firearm, according to a 2020 study by RAND Corporation.
Maine does not require a permit to buy or carry a gun, and it does not have so-called “red flag” laws seen in some other states that allow law enforcement to temporarily disarm people deemed to be dangerous.
U.S. Representative Jared Golden, a Democrat from Lewiston, told reporters that the attacks have reversed his opposition to banning certain kinds of semi-automatic rifles.
“I now call on the United States Congress to ban assault rifles, like the one used by the perpetrator of this mass killing in my hometown,” Golden told a news conference.
But Congress has been mostly unable to pass gun control, even after previous tragedies such as the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 first-graders and six adults were gunned down.
A landmark 2022 U.S. Supreme Court ruling has made it more difficult to pass gun laws. The court found that individuals have a constitutional right to carry weapons in public, and that lawmakers can only pass gun regulations that resemble those that existed in the United States in the 18th century.