Divers join search for Maine shooting suspect in river

Divers will be joining the extensive search for the Maine mass shooting suspect, law enforcement said in a press conference on Friday morning.

Nearly 36 hours after a gunman killed 18 people and 13 others at a bowling alley and a local restaurant in Lewiston, Maine, police are still looking for 40-year-old suspect Robert Card.

Divers are the newest addition to the manhunt and will be tasked with checking for evidence as well as “potential bodies” in the Androscoggin River, Maine’s public safety commissioner Michael Sauschuck said.

A vehicle connected to the suspected gunman was found in Lisbon near a boat ramp on the Androscoggin River, which flows into the Kennebec River, on Thursday.

Mr Sauschuck said the search around the river will extend to a ground search of the surrounding area as well as an aerial search via helicopters to determine where divers should look specifically – the Maine State Police will be leading the initiative.

He clarified that law enforcement does not know for sure if the suspected gunman is in the water.

High-profile searches will continue being conducted in the area as a shelter-in-place order remains in effect. Mr Card, a US Army reservist and a certified firearms instructor, has been described as “armed and dangerous”.

Overnight on Thursday, local, state and federal law enforcement officials executed “standard” search warrants over several properties in the nearby town of Bowdoin where the suspected shooter lived.

Videos captured of law enforcement conducting the searches showed officers yelling “FBI open the door!” into a megaphone. Mr Sauschuck said announcements like this are the police “giving notification”.

Although the suspected gunman was not found, Mr Sauschuck said authorities found a note at one of the residences belonging to the family of the suspected shooter. He declined to disclose the content of the note.

Helicopters as well as Coast Guard boats were used to widen the search to more rural areas and the Kennebec River.

Map of the search area for suspected shooter in Lewiston, Maine mass shooting (Lewiston Police Department)
Map of the search area for suspected shooter in Lewiston, Maine mass shooting (Lewiston Police Department)

The county of Androscoggin as well as the northern portion of Sagadahoc County are under shelter-in-place orders as police try to locate the gunman. Many businesses and schools in nearby areas remained closed on Friday.

During the press conference, Mr Sauschuck said law enforcement is still “days away” from completing their investigation into the crime scenes where the shootings took place. He asked for the public’s respect and patience as police work to finish processing the scenes, identifying victims and contacting families.

Maine police said that the gunman first targeted the Just-In-Time Recreation bowling alley just before 7pm on Wednesday, killing seven people, including one female and six males.

The suspect then went to the Schemengees Bar & Grille Restaurant and opened fire there minutes later, according to authorities.

Seven males were killed inside the restaurant and one male was killed outside.

Three other victims died after they were taken to a local hospital.

Another 13 were injured in the attacks, with their conditions currently unclear.

So far, 10 of the 18 victims have been identified. The youngest victim is a 14-year-old boy who had gone to the bowling alley with his father that tragic night.

Maine officials will be conducting a daily press briefing every morning at 10am ET until the suspect is caught. They said they will be conducting an afternoon one as well should new information need to be shared.