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Manhunt underway after at least 16 killed in shootings in Lewiston, Maine

Police respond to an active shooter situation in Lewiston, Maine, Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2023. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

(CNN) — An urgent manhunt for a gunman is underway after at least 16 people were killed and dozens injured in a mass shooting at a restaurant and a bowling alley in Lewiston, Maine – with schools shuttered and people advised to stay inside Thursday as more than 100 investigators search for the killer, officials said.

Robert Card, 40, is being sought as a person of interest in the attacks, Lewiston police said around 11 p.m. ET Wednesday, adding he “should be considered armed and dangerous.”

Card is a certified firearms instructor and a member of the US Army Reserve, law enforcement officials in Maine told CNN. He had recently threatened to carry out a shooting at a National Guard facility in Saco, Maine, and reported mental health issues, including hearing voices, the officials said.

In this image taken from video released by the Androscoggin County Sheriff's Office, an unidentified shooter points a gun while entering Sparetime Recreation in Lewiston, Maine, on Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2023. Maine State Police ordered residents in the state's second-largest city to shelter in place Wednesday night as the suspect remains at large. (Androscoggin County Sheriff's Office via AP)
A shooter believed to be 40-year-old firearms instructor Robert Card points a gun while entering Sparetime Recreation in Lewiston, Maine, on Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2023. (Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office via AP)

“If people see him, they should not approach Card or make contact with him in any way,” Maine’s Department of Public Safety commissioner Mike Sauschuck said in a Wednesday night news conference, declining to give more details or go into his background. “It’s a fluid situation.”

At least 16 people are dead, law enforcement officials told CNN. Lewiston City Councilor Robert McCarthy told CNN Wednesday night 22 people had been killed, citing a city administrator.

Dozens more were injured, though it wasn’t immediately clear how many were hurt due to gunfire, the law enforcement sources told CNN.

The violence added to a list of 565 mass shootings reported across the United States this year, with four or more shot excluding the shooter, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

“It’s so surreal,” McCarthy said. “You just see it on the news and you say, ‘That’s never gonna happen here,’ and then it happens here, and it just blows your mind.”

“My house is located a half a mile from where this happened, and so it was a real scary event,” he said. “I live on a dead-end street with woods behind me. We locked all the doors. We grabbed the guns, and we’re just waiting to hear that they catch the individual or individuals that did this.”

The rampage began shortly before 7 p.m. and fueled calls for everyone in Lewiston to shelter in place as hundreds of officers searched for the gunman. Lewiston police shared images of a man walking into what appears to be a bowling alley holding a high-powered, assault-style rifle.

The active shooting incidents were reported at Just-in-Time Recreation, a bowling alley on Mollison Way, and about 4 miles away at Schemengees Bar & Grille Restaurant on Lincoln Street, Lewiston Police said. Authorities initially identified the bowling alley by its prior name, Sparetime Recreation.

“My heart is crushed. I am at a loss for words. In a split second your world gets turn upside down for no good reason,” Schemengees said in a Facebook post. “We loss great people in this community. How can we make any sense of this. Sending out prayers to everyone.”

People ran away from Just-in-Time Recreation as police cruisers responded to the scene, video obtained by CNN shows. A person on a stretcher was loaded into an ambulance, another video from outside the bowling alley shows.

Central Maine Medical Center was “reacting to a mass casualty, mass shooter event,” and coordinating with area hospitals to take in patients, it said.

“There are multiple scenes in the city to include multiple hospitals, multiple follow ups, a lot of witnesses we’re speaking with and a lot of leads,”  Sauschuck  said. “The general public has been very cooperative, and very forthcoming with information.”

A “vehicle of interest” was found Wednesday night 8 miles from Lewiston in the town of Lisbon, prompting shelter-in-place-orders for that area as well, Sauschuck said.

Lewiston police earlier had shared an image of a small, white SUV with a front bumper that was believed to be painted black. Maine State Police confirmed to CNN the image is of the person of interest’s car.

Lewiston Mayor Carl Sheline is “heartbroken for our city and our people,” he said.

“Lewiston is known for our strength and grit and we will need both in the days to come,” Sheline said in a statement to CNN Wednesday.

People in Bowdoin, Maine, were advised early Thursday not to go outside as the search continues for Card continues.

“We are expanding the shelter in place advisory and school closings to include the town of Bowdoin,” Maine State Police announced on Facebook. “Please stay inside your homes while more than 100 investigators, both local and federal work to locate Robert Card who is a person of interest in the Lewiston shootings.”

Nearby school districts canceled classes Thursday, including Lewiston Public Schools and Portland Public Schools, the largest school district in the state with approximately 6,500 students, according to the district’s website. The city of Portland is more than 30 miles from Lewiston.

“Stay close to your loved ones. Embrace them. Our prayers go out to those who lost someone tonight. Our prayers go out to all those working to stop further loss of life,” Lewiston Public Schools said in a post.

President Joe Biden has spoken by phone with Maine lawmakers and “offered full federal support in the wake of this horrific attack,” the White House said in a statement.

People ran out of bowling alley

The shooting injected fear into Lewiston, the state’s second-largest city located about 36 miles north of Portland.

Nichoel Wyman Arel was on her way home with her daughter from a Girl Scout meeting when she saw police lights and ambulances around the bowling alley and people running. At least one person looked to be covered in blood, she told CNN’s Laura Coates.

Arel and her daughter saw officers patting people down as they came out of the bowling alley, she said.

“There were kids. Looking back, that was probably the hardest part is seeing just families; families pouring out of there,” Arel said. “And knowing that that happened in there while they were just probably trying to have a family night.”

When she got home, Arel locked up the house, including windows, she said. Her daughter “was scared somebody was going to come into our home.”

Officials in the neighboring city of Auburn, less than 2 miles west of Lewiston, also urged residents to shelter in place due to the active shooter situation, according to a post on X, formerly Twitter.

A reunification center was set up at a school in Auburn for those in Lewiston looking for their loved ones, Sauschuck said.

Auburn Mayor Jason Levesque said there was a lot of fear and panic among residents at the reunification center, and witnesses to the shootings included teenagers.

“You can train for this, but you can never be completely prepared,” Levesque said, “It’s an all hands on deck situation.”

Timeline: The attack and the manhunt

• Around 7 p.m.: Two shootings are reported in Lewiston with multiple casualties, according to Sauschuck.
• 8 p.m.: Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office releases photos of the armed person of interest and says it’s investigating two active shooter incidents. The agency encourages “all businesses to lock down and or close while we investigate.”
• 8:09 p.m.: Maine State Police says there’s “an active shooter in Lewiston” and tells people to stay inside with their doors locked. “Law enforcement is currently investigating at multiple locations,” the agency added.
• 8:26 p.m.: The neighboring City of Auburn urges all residents to shelter in place.
• 8:53 p.m.: Lewiston police identify the shooting locations as Schemengees and Sparetime Recreation.
• 9:17 p.m.: Lewiston police release the image of a white vehicle, asking members of the public to contact them if they see it. The image is of the person of interest’s car.
• 10:18 p.m.: Lewiston City Councilor Robert McCarthy tells CNN the death toll was at 22 people killed.
• 10:52 p.m.: Police on social media name Robert Card as a “person of interest” in the shootings and release his photo.
• Around 11:30 p.m.: Maine Department of Public Safety Commissioner Mike Sauschuck says in a news conference that a “vehicle of interest” was found in Lisbon, but the person of interest remains at large.
• 11:34 p.m.: Lisbon officials say all town offices will be closed on Thursday and tell people to keep sheltering in place.

The FBI office in Boston said it’s ready to assist local authorities as they respond to the mass shootings.

“The FBI Boston Division continues to coordinate with our local, state and federal law enforcement partners in Maine and we stand ready to assist with any available resources they need, including evidence response, investigative and tactical support, as well as victim assistance,” the FBI in Boston said in a statement.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Boston is also among agencies responding to the shootings, according to a post from the agency.

This story has been updated to reflect uncertainty about the death toll.

CNN’s Jamiel Lynch, Josh Campbell, Chris Boyette and Joe Sutton contributed to this report.