What we know about the Lewiston suspected shooter, and what Maine gun laws say

Maine has a "yellow flag" gun law

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Shocked and fearful Maine residents kept to their homes for a second night as hundreds of heavily armed police and FBI agents searched intensely for 40-year-old Robert Card, an Army reservist authorities say fatally shot 18 people at a bowling alley and a bar in the worst mass killing in state history.

Much of Thursday’s search focused on a property belonging to one of Card’s relatives in rural Bowdoin, where trucks and vans full of armed agents from the FBI and other agencies eventually surrounded a home. Card and anyone else inside were repeatedly ordered to surrender.

“You need to come outside now with nothing in your hands. Your hands in the air,” police said through a loudspeaker. In most instances when police execute warrants — even for suspects wanted for violent crimes — they move quickly to enter the home.

But hours later, after repeated announcements and a search, authorities moved off — and it was still unclear whether Card had ever been at the location, state police said.

As the manhunt continues, here's what we know about the suspected gunman, how the shooting unfolded and what's next.

Who is Robert Card?

The suspected gunman in a mass shooting in Maine that claimed at least 18 lives and injured 13 others is a U.S. Army Reserve veteran who sought mental health treatment over the summer, according to a law enforcement bulletin reviewed by NBC 5 Investigates and information law enforcement officials.

NBC 5 Investigates has confirmed with U.S. Army Reserves that Robert Card is assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 304th Infantry Regiment in Saco, Maine.

As of Friday morning, Card's whereabouts remain unknown.

Court records reviewed by NBC 5 Investigates show that a judge granted a prosecutor's request Thursday to withhold from public view certain information contained in Card’s arrest warrant.

The assistant attorney general wrote that "an arrest has not yet been made and disclosure of information in the affidavit may impede on the law enforcement’s ability to conduct their investigation. A number of witnesses still need to be interviewed."

Law enforcement sources told NBC News that over the summer his commanders sent him for psychiatric treatment after he reported hearing voices and made threats to shoot up a National Guard base. A law enforcement bulletin stated Card was committed to a mental health facility for two weeks before being released.

Card, still at large, was considered armed and dangerous, police said. A telephone number listed for Card in public records was not in service.

Maine State Police say Card is wanted on eight counts of murder. Ten victims remain unidentified. As more victims are identified, the counts against Card is expected to grow, Maine State Police Col. William Ross said.

What do Maine gun laws say?

Maine laws allow for gun ownership without a permit, and two senior law enforcement officials told NBC News that the suspect legally purchased the weapon used during Wednesday night’s shootings.

Maine also has a "yellow flag" law that allows law enforcement to take away an individual’s firearms, but only after they’ve been taken into protective custody and if a medical professional finds a "likelihood of foreseeable harm."

It wasn't immediately clear what specific action was taken after the suspect’s mental health treatment.

An emailed statement to NBC Boston from a court spokesperson said mental health cases and weapons restriction cases are confidential.

The family of the suspected gunman told NBC News that he had been experiencing an "acute" mental health episode for months and had a "manic belief" that people were saying negative things about him before Wednesday’s massacre.

What do Illinois 'red flag' laws say?

On Thursday, NBC 5 Investigates spoke to Former State Rep. Kathleen Willis, who was the chief sponsor of Illinois' red flag law in 2018.

"In the state of Illinois, if you are put into a mental health facility, that automatically revokes your FOID card for a certain period of time, and I guess we need to recognize why was that not done in Maine or was this in the pipeline to be done and hadn’t followed through?" she said.

Illinois' law allows individuals to petition the court directly to remove firearms from their loved ones if they pose a risk of danger to themselves or others.

"And it’s not a permanent taking away of their guns," Willis said. "It’s a temporary taking away of guns until they get their life back in order."

Another major difference between the gun laws in Illinois and Maine: In wake of the Highland Park massacre last summer, Illinois passed an assault weapons ban.  

How the shooting unfolded

Lewiston Police said the shooting took place on Wednesday evening at Schemengees Bar and Grille and at Just-In-Time Recreation, a bowling alley about 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) away. A number of parents and children were at Just-In-Time as part of a children’s bowling league.

The bowling alley is about 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) north of the Bates College campus, on the outskirts of downtown, and offers traditional tenpin bowling and candlepin, a variant found in New England.

Seven people were shot and killed at Just-In-Time Recreation bowling alley, including one female and six males, and eight people were shot and killed at Schemengees Bar and Grille, including seven males inside and one male outside. Multiple other people were transferred to various hospitals, three of whom have died. Eight of the dead have been identified and family notified, while authorities are still working to identify the other 10.

A manhunt in Maine continues for a suspect in a mass shooting that left at least 18 dead in multiple locations in Lewiston Wednesday night, NBC Chicago's Natalie Martinez reports.

The father of a manager killed at Schemengees told NBC News' Lester Holt that Card had been to the bar before.

"All of the people over there know him," said Leroy Walker. "He would actually come to Schemengees; he'd been there off and on."

Patrick Poulin was supposed to be at the Just-In-Time bowling center with his 15-year-old son, who is in a league that was practicing Wednesday. They stayed home, but he estimates there were probably several dozen young bowlers, ages 4 to 18, along with their parents, in the facility. Poulin’s brother was there, he said, and shepherded some of the children outside when the shooting began.

“He’s pretty shook up,” Poulin said Thursday. “And it’s just sinking in today, like, wow, I was very close to being there. And a lot of the people that got hurt, I know.”

Less than 15 minutes later, numerous 911 calls started coming in from Schemengees Bar and Grille a few miles away.

Schools, businesses remain on lockdown

Schools, doctor’s offices and grocery stores closed and people stayed behind locked doors in cities as far as 50 miles (80 kilometers) from the scenes of the shootings. Maine’s largest city, Portland, closed its public buildings, while Canada Border Services Agency issued an “armed and dangerous” alert to its officers stationed along the U.S. border.

Streets in Lewiston and surrounding communities were virtually deserted late Thursday night. 

Schools in Lewiston were to remain closed Friday, while those in Portland would decide in the morning whether to open. Bates College in Lewiston also cancelled classes Friday and postponed the inauguration of the school’s first Black president.

April Stevens lives in the same neighborhood where one of the shootings took place. She turned on all her lights overnight and locked her doors. She knew someone killed at the bar and another person injured who needed surgery.

“We’re praying for everyone,” Stevens said through tears.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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