Lewiston, Maine mass shootings

‘I truly felt like we were at war': Documents reveal horror of Maine's deadliest mass shooting​

“They grab at our legs and try to stop us and we can not help them,” wrote Lewiston Officer Keith Caouette. “We have to walk by and continue to search and hope they are alive when we come back around.”

Lewiston, ME - October 28: Police and FBI were still at Schemengees Bar and Grille Saturday morning as they gather evidence at the location which was the scene of one of two mass shootings in Lewiston that killed 18 people.
John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Thousands of pages of Maine Department of Public Safety documents released Friday include detailed descriptions of the chaos and carnage surrounding the state’s deadliest mass shooting.

Officers arrived at the two shooting scenes in Lewiston last October not knowing if the gunman was still there, and with living and dead victims on the floors. One officer described desperate survivors screaming for help as he searched for the shooter.

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“They grab at our legs and try to stop us and we can not help them,” wrote Lewiston Officer Keith Caouette. “We have to walk by and continue to search and hope they are alive when we come back around.”

Another police officer’s first instinct was that an act of domestic terrorism had been committed, underscored by the heavy police presence and flashing blue lights. “I truly felt like we were at war,” Auburn Lt. Steven Gosselin wrote.

Their descriptions of the scenes at a bowling alley and a bar and grill where 18 people were killed and 13 others wounded were included in more than 3,000 pages of documents released Friday in response to Freedom of Access Act requests by The Associated Press and other news organizations.

Associated Press reporters had reviewed more than a third of the pages before the website with the documents crashed late Friday afternoon. State officials said documents will be made available again on Monday.

Among the details included in the report were the words from a note left behind by the gunman, 40-year-old Army reservist Robert Card, who wrote that he just wanted to “be left the (expletive) alone,” the Portland Press Herald reported. The note also contained his phone password and passwords needed to access his various accounts.

The gunman’s family and fellow Army reservists reported that he was suffering from a mental breakdown in the months leading up to the shooting Oct. 25, 2023. In the aftermath, the legislature passed new gun laws for Maine that bolstered the state’s “yellow flag” law, criminalized the transfer of guns to prohibited people and expanded funding for mental health crisis care.

Card’s body was found two days after the shooting in the back of a tractor-trailer on his former employer’s property in nearby Lisbon. An autopsy concluded he died by suicide.

An interaction between New York State Police and the man who eventually carried out the deadly mass shootings in Lewiston, Maine, is seen in a newly-released video.

The documents that were released Friday provided officers’ firsthand accounts of what they saw along with additional details of the massive search for Card and the investigation.

At the peak, the law enforcement presence was immense with 16 SWAT team and officers from 14 different agencies, along with eight helicopters and additional airplanes, and an underwater recovery team, wrote state police Lt. Tyler Stevenson.

“I have experienced several large-scale manhunts in my career, but this was, by far, the largest manhunt I have been a part of,” he wrote.

Officers used lasers to map the shooting scenes, searched Tracfone purchases at a Walmart in the event Card had a burner phone and even retrieved data from the infotainment system of Card’s Subaru.

President Joe Biden traveled to Maine to pay respects to those killed in last week's mass shootings.

Police recovered hundreds of items of potential evidence from a number of locations, including bullet cartridges and fragments, phones, hair, fibers, swabs of a gas pedal, a handwritten letter, a tomahawk knife, arrows, a hearing aid, broken eyeglasses, a blue sneaker, a black chain necklace, bean bags, miscellaneous military records, $255 in cash, and a night vision monocular.

The documents underscored the confusion as police officers poured into the region. In addition to the two crime scenes, police responded to unfounded reports of a gunman in a field near the shooting scene, at another restaurant and at a massive Walmart distribution center.

“I asked who was in charge and got no answer,” wrote Androscoggin County Deputy Jason Chaloux, describing the scene outside the bar.

Chief Paul Ferland of the Monmouth Police Department said that when he arrived in Lisbon hours after the shootings, 60-70 officers were “standing around” waiting for instructions that never came. A member of the U.S. Marshals Service told him he had been given no updates and was going to start following up on his own leads.

Ferland said he got more information from reporters standing outside the hospital than he did from law enforcement and that he withdrew his officers by early morning due to concerns for their safety.

The last patients who remained in the hospital following a shooting in Lewiston, Maine were released on Saturday. 

“It became obvious to me that there was a lack of communications between agencies and no one knew what was going on,” he wrote.

Others described the horrific scenes inside the bowling alley and bar and grill. Cellphones ringing on bloodied tabletops, tablecloths and a pool table cover turned into makeshift stretchers.

“A quick scan of the building revealed blood and flesh scattered throughout the business," Lewiston Detective Zachary Provost wrote of the bowling alley. “I also could smell the heavy odor of gunpowder mixed with burning flesh.”

Caouette, the Lewiston officer who responded to the bar and grill, said some witnesses yelled that the gunman was still in the building when he arrived while others said he already left. He told one man lying on the floor to “hang in there,” but by the time he returned to him, the man had died.

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