Police hunt for man linked to major mass shootings in Lewiston, Maine

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By Daniel Trotta and Julia Harte

(Reuters) - Hundreds of police searched the city of Lewiston and surrounding areas of Maine state for a man sought in connection with mass shootings at a bar and a bowling alley, as news outlets reported a death toll ranging from 16 to 22, with dozens more wounded.

Officials said there were multiple casualties but declined to provide figures.

State and local police identified Robert R. Card, 40, as a person of interest in the case after previously posting on Facebook photographs of a man wielding what appeared to be a semi-automatic rifle. The pictures from one of Wednesday's crime scenes showed a bearded man in a brown hoodie and jeans, holding the weapon in the firing position.

"We have literally hundreds of police officers working around the state of Maine to investigate this case to locate Mr. Card, who is a person of interest," Maine Public Safety Commissioner Mike Sauschuck told a news conference.

Several media reported that a Maine law enforcement bulletin identified Card as a trained firearms instructor and member of the U.S. Army reserve who recently reported that he had mental health issues, including hearing voices. It also said he threatened to shoot up a National Guard base.

"Card was also reported to have been committed to mental health facility for two weeks during summer 2023 and subsequently released," said the notice from the Maine Information & Analysis Center.

Reuters could not authenticate the bulletin. The Associated Press reported it was circulated to law enforcement officials.

The bar and the bowling alley are about four miles (6.5 km) apart in Lewiston, a former textile hub and town of 38,000 people in Androscoggin County about 35 miles (56 km) north of Maine's largest city, Portland.

Media reports picked up by Reuters earlier said there was a third shooting site at a Walmart distribution center, but Walmart later issued a statement to local media saying no shooting occurred on their property.

The Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston issued a statement saying it was "reacting to a mass casualty, mass shooter event" and coordinating with area hospitals to take patients.

President Joe Biden has been briefed and will continue to receive updates, a U.S. official said in Washington.

The president spoke by phone individually to Maine Governor Janet Mills, Senators Angus King and Susan Collins, and Congressman Jared Golden about the shooting in Lewiston and offered full federal support in the wake of the attack, the White House said.

If the death toll of 22 is confirmed, the massacre would be the deadliest in the United States since at least August 2019, when a gunman opened fire on shoppers at an El Paso Walmart with an AK-47 rifle, killing 23 in a shooting that prosecutors branded an anti-Hispanic hate crime, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

The 22 fatalities would also be on par with the number of homicides that normally occur in Maine in any given year. The number of annual homicides in the state has fluctuated between 16 and 29 since 2012, according to Maine State Police.

The number of U.S. shootings in which four or more people were shot has surged since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, with 647 occurring in 2022 and 679 projected to occur in 2023, based on trends as of July, according to data from the archive.

The deadliest U.S. mass shooting on record is the massacre of 58 people by a gunman firing on a Las Vegas country music festival from a high-rise hotel perch in 2017.

(This story has been corrected to change the name to Mr. Card in paragraph 4)

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Additional reporting by Julia Harte, Steve Gorman and Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Sandra Maler, Ross Colvin, Lincoln Feast and Raju Gopalakrishnan)