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Lewiston residents brave the streets amid manhunt after shelter-in-place lifted: ‘You’ve got to live’

Locals began returning to daily life after Maine authorities lifted a shelter-in-place order following the deadly mass shooting at a Lewiston bar and bowling alley as the armed and dangerous suspect remained at large, write Andrea Blanco and Sheila Flynn

Saturday 28 October 2023 03:48 BST
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Heart-shaped cut-outs with messages of positivity adorns trees in downtown Lewiston, Maine, Thursday, Oct. 26, 2023. The...
Heart-shaped cut-outs with messages of positivity adorns trees in downtown Lewiston, Maine, Thursday, Oct. 26, 2023. The... (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Traffic surged back onto the streets of Lewiston on Friday night after authorities rescinded a shelter-in-place order implemented when an armed suspect killed 18, injured 13 more and vanished without a trace two days earlier.

Suspect Robert Card remained a fugitive when Maine officials lifted the order at a press conference, followed by an emergency text alert to resident cell phones. Locals who’d been cooped up since Wednesday amid the manhunt quickly headed out to complete chores and get provisions while law enforcement doggedly kept up its hunt for Card, a 40-year-old Army reservist considered armed and dangerous.

Within an hour of the announcement at City Hall, during which authorities also released the identities of all 18 victims, the parking lot of a Roopers Beverage & Redemption just a few blocks away in Lewiston was jam-packed.

“This is the most traffic I’ve seen in a long time – it’s been a ghost town,” Dana Lyman, 46, told The Independent. He said that residents were scared, and he’d been making short trips for homebound locals during the lockdown – but now people were forging ahead.

“You’ve got to live – you don’t have a choice,” he said.

Mr Lyman said many local employees had called out from work during the lockdown, too nervous to travel to their jobs: “The places that did stay open were all short-staffed.”

Lewiston locals ventured the streets on Friday after the shelter-in-place order was lifted. A manhunt for Robert Card continues nearly 48 hours after 18 people were killed in two different shootings in Lewiston (Andrea Blanco/The Independent)

Fifty-five-year-old Rechelle Gamage said she had rushed to Roopers after learning that the shelter-in-place order had been rescinded. Ms Gamage, who works in the kitchen at nearby Bates College, said that her daughter had picked up her children from a building on the same block as the Just-In-Time bowling alley, where seven people were killed, shortly before the violence unfolded.

The other 11 victims were murdered at Schemengees Bar & Grille.

“I just came to find some milk for my grandchildren. It was horrible finding groceries yesterday,” Ms Gamage told The Independent. “It is crazy the world we live in.”

Steve Demele, a 34-year-old army veteran who now works at a marijuana dispenser in Auburn, was carrying a gun in his holster as he spoke with employees at Roopers. The 34-year-old was with his daughter when he first heard about the shooting, he said, and felt the need to join search efforts but did not want to interfere with law enforcement.

“People are like, ‘you shouldn’t have a gun, you shouldn’t have a semi-automatic,’” Mr Demele said. “But if there was somebody like me or anybody like my number of friends with military experience, we would have taken care of it … [civilians] would have been shot, but casualties are down.”

Steve Demele made a stop at the Roopers Beverage & Redemption carrying a gun in his holster (Andrea Blanco/The Independent)

Earlier in the day, 81-year-old Linda Parker had spoken about the collective grief her community was just beginning to process — but had a very different outlook on the circumstances leading up to the rampage.

“When you get those rifles … it’s made for war, why do we have those here? They are war weapons, they’re not street weapons,” Ms Parker said.

As the Maine sky turned dark on Friday night, 18-year-old Arnav Panapareh was taking his first walk with friends across campus after the lockdown was lifted. An international student, Mr Panapareh told The Independent that his concerned parents had desperately started calling him when they heard that America’s latest mass shooting had taken place just a short four-minute drive from their son’s dorm.

Authorites across Maine continue looking for Card. Pictured is a computer at a Shaw’s supermarket 20 miles from Lewiston (Andrea Blanco/The Independent)

“You don’t really hear about this type of gun violence in Hong Kong. My parents told me, ‘Lock your door, hide under your bed. They were really panicked,” Mr Panapareh recalled. “I’ve been in my dorm for a while, but it gets quite boring. My roommate actually just drove to see some people and I am about to go see my friends.”

Hunting remained prohibited in the towns of Lewiston, Lisbon, Bowdoin and Monmouth beginning Saturday until further notice, authorities said – while reiterating the hunt continued for Card. Locals were urged to remain vigilant.

Jayne Bergeron, who owns Val’s Flower Boutique, told The Independent that her husband, a “bread man,” had been forced to miss two days of work – but “people’s lives are more important than that little bit of business.”

“There’s just so much sadness,” she said. “There’s so much grief.”

Hours later, on Friday evening, authorities revealed that Card’s body had been found in a wooded area near the town of Lisbon.

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