Maine families grieving their loved ones are also grappling with unanswered questions after police found the body of the US Army reservist who authorities say carried out the deadliest mass shooting in the United States this year – a rampage that left 18 people dead.
The body of Robert Card, 40, was discovered Friday evening with a self-inflicted gunshot wound inside a recycling facility box trailer about 10 miles from Lewiston, where 18 people were killed and 13 others were wounded in shootings at a bowling alley and a restaurant on Wednesday.
With an extensive 48-hour manhunt now over, Lewiston is finally able to mourn after the shootings injected fear into the city and surrounding communities, closing down schools and keeping residents behind locked doors for two days as police searched for the gunman.
Elizabeth Seal, wife of Joshua Seal who was killed in the shootings, told CNN she is still processing the fact the shooter is dead.
“I wanted him to be apprehended. I wanted to ask questions that will not be answered,” she said, speaking through an American Sign Language interpreter. “Why did you do this? What was the motive? Why would you hurt so many families?”
Authorities are still working to uncover what motivated the deadly attack, and at what point Card died. Police found a note he had left to his family that conveyed he was “not going to be around” and wanted to make sure they had access to his phone, Maine Public Safety Commissioner Michael Sauschuck said at Saturday’s news conference.
Yet Seal also feels relieved. “It’s important that he was found,” she said, “and he’s gone.”
Rob Young, whose brother Bill Young and 14-year-old nephew Aaron were killed in the shooting, told CNN this was the ideal outcome.
“No ‘why’ would ever bring my brother and my nephew back … We didn’t want to sit through a trial. We didn’t … want to see all the gruesome details,” Young said.
Survivor Tammy Asselin, whose cousin Tricia Asselin was killed in the shooting, said she wants to know why the gunman targeted the locations, and why he fired when children were there.
“It is just those ‘why’ questions that unfortunately are left unanswered and we will probably never have those answers to,” she said.
Federal and local investigators are still trying to piece together what led up to the violence, and what motivated the shootings.
An FBI Social Media Exploitation Team assigned to the case is currently reviewing the Card’s social media footprint in order to identify a possible motive, additional attack plans, and any associates who may be witnesses in the investigation, a federal law enforcement source told CNN Friday.
Authorities are also working to establish a timeline from the period between the second attack and Card being found dead, said one senior source involved in the investigation.
The manhunt for the gunman started Wednesday night after gunfire erupted at Just-in-Time Recreation and then at Schemengees Bar & Grille in Lewiston, according to officials.
The 18 people killed ranged in age from 14 to 76. They included a boy who was bowling with his father, contestants in a cornhole tournament for the deaf, and several fathers who leave behind young children. Five of the injured victims were still hospitalized as of Saturday, three of them in critical condition.
On Saturday, residents gathered for a candlelight vigil for those lost in the shootings.
“The violence that happened this past Wednesday was senseless and tragic, but we will be OK. Lewiston is a strong city full of resilient people. And I have no doubt that we’ll be OK.” Lewiston Mayor Carl Sheline told CNN Saturday.
“Right now I’m just wholly focused on, you know, healing our city and getting things back to normal as quickly as possible,” the mayor added.
Gunman’s note to family and guns found in box trailer, police say
The attacks on Wednesday began shortly before 7 p.m., with the gunman opening fire at Just-In-Time Recreation, authorities say.
About 12 minutes after the first calls from the bowling alley, authorities received multiple 911 calls about a shooter at Schemengees Bar and Grille Restaurant, roughly 4 miles from the bowling alley.
The shooting and subsequent manhunt for Card prompted shelter-in-place orders for Androscoggin and northern Sagadahoc counties, where Lewiston, Auburn and Lisbon are located.
Law enforcement officials say Card, a US Army reservist and certified firearms instructor, had extensive training, including land navigation and firearms. He was described as a skilled marksman and one of the best shooters in his unit by someone who served with him.
For two days, residents of the normally quiet area saw law enforcement officers with long guns surrounding and searching various locations. Friday’s discovery of his body ended a massive search with divers, underwater vessels and aircraft.
Card’s body was found inside a box trailer sitting in an overflow parking lot of Maine Recycling Corporation in Lisbon, Sauschuck said at Saturday’s news conference.
Card had recently been fired from the recycling center, a law enforcement source told CNN.
Sauschuck said the facility was initially searched and considered clear, but the owner of Maine Recycling directed law enforcement to additional trailers investigators did not initially realize were part of the same recycling center.
It is unclear when Card died. Sauschuck said the shooter was wearing the same sweatshirt seen in surveillance video of the Wednesday night shooting, suggesting he never changed his clothes.
Two firearms were found alongside Card’s body, along with a note to his family, Sauschuck said.
“It’s a note to a loved one, and it is saying that this is the pass code for my phone, this is the bank account numbers,” Sauschuck said in the Saturday press conference. “I wouldn’t describe it as an explicit suicide note, but the tone and tenor was that the individual was not going to be around and wanted to make sure that this loved one had access to this phone and whatever was in his phone.”
While no motive has been announced, a key theory about why the bowling alley and the restaurant were targeted emerged during the investigation, law enforcement sources told CNN Thursday. Card recently broke up with a longtime girlfriend, and investigators are pursuing the theory Card went to the bowling alley and the bar because they were places the couple used to frequent, law enforcement sources told CNN’s John Miller.
Investigators executed a search warrant Thursday at Card’s home, looking for computers, notes, weapons and any evidence that might indicate a plan for the shootings, law enforcement sources told CNN.
Card’s family has been cooperative with investigators and their assistance was critical in identifying the shooter, but they have unfairly received threats due to Card’s actions, according to Sauschuck.
“I think the first three people that called us to positively identify this individual based on the photos that were released were family members,” Sauschuck said.
18 lives cut short
The 18 victims from the shooting rampage were identified Friday – with victims ranging in age from 14 to 76.
Aaron Young, the boy killed while bowling with his father, was an honor student who took pride in his grades, Aaron’s sister and Bill’s stepdaughter, Kayla Putnam, told CNN affiliate WCVB. Aaron’s father, Bill, was an auto mechanic, Putnam said, and the rock of the family.
“There is nothing you can do to prepare for this,” Bill’s brother Rob Young said. His late brother’s wife “lost everything.”
“Her son was her entire world, and my brother was her best friend and soul mate, and they were both taken away,” Young said. “They said goodbye. He went to the bowling alley, and she never gets to see them again.”
Beloved American Sign Language interpreter Joshua Seal had been taking part in the cornhole tournament for deaf athletes at Schemengees when he was killed Wednesday, according to his wife, reported CNN affiliate, WGME.
In a Facebook tribute to her husband, Elizabeth Seal says he was a supportive father who loved spending time with his children.
“He (Joshua) always loved spending time with them, traveling, going for a day trip to the beach, or going camping for the weekend,” Seal’s wife said. “Not only was he an amazing father, he was a wonderful husband, my best friend, and my soulmate. He was also a wonderful boss, an incredible interpreter, a great friend, a loving son, brother, uncle, and grandson. He loved his family and always put them first. That is what he will always be remembered for.”
Wednesday’s rampage is the deadliest mass shooting in the United States this year. Overall, at least 572 mass shootings have happened this year across the country, with four or more shot excluding the shooter, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
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