Law enforcement agencies have descended upon southern Maine to search for a man accused of killing 18 people in a mass shooting Wednesday, and there are several aspects to his background that could make the effort to find him both challenging and dangerous, experts told CNN.
The search for Robert Card, 40, began after two shootings were reported at a restaurant and a bowling alley just 4 miles apart in Lewiston, Maine’s second-largest city, about 40 miles north of Portland. He now faces an arrest warrant for eight counts of murder, a figure that will rise as more victims are identified, officials said.
In the meantime, authorities continue their search. But they could face several challenges as they race to find Card, law enforcement experts said, namely his training as a marksman and US Army reservist, his purported skill as an outdoorsman and the planning he seems to have done prior to his alleged attack.
Authorities have also recovered a cell phone, adding to the challenges of locating the suspect since investigators routinely track cell phones to find people, a law enforcement official said. It’s not clear if Card is carrying another phone not associated with him.
The law enforcement official also said that investigators found a note Card left behind, though the note doesn’t explain a motive for the mass shootings.
Maine Public Safety Commissioner Mike Sauschuck said they are examining “every square inch” of the two crime scenes and are “days away” from completing that work. “We’re still involved in a very dynamic situation here,” Sauschuck said at a press conference.
Authorities said on Friday they are continuing to follow up on hundreds of tips of varying degrees.
Sauschuck said every single round and cartridge “needs to be investigated,” and the vehicles in the parking lots need to also be processed.
Investigators are using divers on Friday to search the area near a boat launch where Card’s vehicle was found.
“We will be putting divers in the water along the Androscoggin River,” Sauschuck said. Divers will be checking for “evidence, for potential bodies” and law enforcement will be using sonar and air assets to assist the divers, Sauschuck added.
CNN Chief Law Enforcement and Intelligence Analyst John Miller said authorities are going through a process of elimination and they have likely completed their search of the woods, which now leaves them with the water.
Authorities said although the search area around the river near the town of Lisbon will be a big part of the manhunt, it doesn’t mean Card’s means of escape is clear. “I’m not saying we know the suspect is in the water,” Sauschuck said.
Authorities also plan to continue with ground searches. “They’re going to be out in the woods. They’re going to be out crawling around,” Sauschuck said.
Miller said there are two possibilities. One, that the suspect is in that water and he drowned himself, or two, since he once had a small boat registered to him, he could have used the lake that feeds into a river and made out for the ocean or turned inland where he could have found a landing place, and a switch car.
“But these are all the unknowns that as we come up on that 48-hour mark, they’ve got to start to walk through and try and eliminate, and eliminating that body of water is something that’s going to take a while and a lot of effort, but it’s an important step,” Miller said.
The suspect’s military background is another challenge law enforcement may face.
“This is a person who has military training. They have an elevated level of firearms proficiency, but they also have the knowledge of military tactics, most notably evasion and the strategy on how to go undetected,” said CNN Law Enforcement Analyst Jonathan Wackrow. “All of that going on is challenging to law enforcement.”
His experience with guns and the outdoors
Card’s apparent expertise with firearms presents an added layer of danger to the search and any potential confrontation with law enforcement, according to the experts who spoke with CNN.
Card is a certified firearms instructor, law enforcement officials in Maine told CNN. And while he’s had no deployments, records provided by the Army indicate Card is a petroleum supply specialist in the Army reserve.
The 40-year-old never saw combat, according to Clifford Steeves, who told CNN he knew Card when they served in the Army Reserve together, until about a decade ago. But Card received extensive training, including with firearms, he said, adding Card was a skilled marksman and among the best shooters in their unit.
“His familiarity with weapons makes him a bit more dangerous,” said Rob D’Amico, a retired FBI agent and former member of the bureau’s Hostage Rescue Team.