At least 18 people have been killed and 13 others wounded after a gunman went on a shooting spree in the northeastern state of Maine in the United States.
The carnage in Lewiston, a city of about about 39,000 people, began at about 7pm on Wednesday (23:00GMT) when police received calls about a gunman at a bowling alley, where a children’s event was taking place.
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A short time later, there were reports of another shooting at a nearby bar and grill.
Law enforcement authorities warned residents to stay inside and lock their doors.
The Lewiston Police Department released a photo on its Facebook page of a person of interest, named as Robert Card.
“CARD should be considered armed and dangerous,” they wrote, urging members of the public not to approach him or make contact.
“We have literally hundreds of police officers working around the state of Maine to investigate this case to locate Mr Card, who is a person of interest,” Maine Public Safety Commissioner Mike Sauschuck told a news conference.
A state police bulletin said Card had been trained as a firearms instructor at a US army reserve training centre in Maine, but had a history of mental health problems including hearing voices.
The 40-year-old spent two weeks in a mental health facility during the summer, the bulletin added, according to the AP news agency.
Police earlier shared two photos of a bearded man in a long-sleeved brown shirt and dark combat trousers with an assault rifle raised to his shoulder.
They also released a photo of an abandoned white SUV with its doors open, asking the public for information.
“There is an active shooter in Lewiston,” Maine state police said on the social media platform X. “We ask people to shelter in place. Please stay inside your home with the doors locked. Law enforcement is currently investigating at multiple locations.”
On its website, Central Maine Medical Center said staff were “reacting to a mass casualty, mass shooter event” and were coordinating with hospitals in the area to take in patients.
Community in shock
The violence left locals stunned.
“It was just a fun night playing cornhole. it’s the last thing you’re expecting, right?” Kathy Lebel, owner of Schemengees Bar & Grille, told the Sun Journal. “I still feel like this whole thing is a nightmare.”
Lebel was not at the bar at the time of the attack, but said a person walked in and “started shooting”, prompting staff to scramble.
The FBI field office in Boston said in a statement it was ready to assist with victim support and investigative support.
Lewiston is about 56 kilometres (35 miles) north of Portland, Maine’s largest city.
President Joe Biden was briefed on the shootings and spoke on the phone individually to Maine Governor Janet Mills, Senators Angus King and Susan Collins, and Congressman Jared Golden about the attack, offering full federal support in the wake of the attack, the White House said.
The Lewiston attack is the deadliest mass shooting in the US since at least August 2019, when a gunman opened fire on shoppers at an El Paso Walmart with an AK-47 rifle, killing 23, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
There were 647 mass shootings – attacks in which at least four people were killed – in 2022, including the primary school in Uvalde, Texas, where a teenage gunman shot dead 19 young children and two adults.
About 679 mass shootings are expected this year, based on trends as of July, according to data from the archive.
Amid the continuing gun violence, Biden has repeatedly called for gun law reform, urging Republican legislators to join him in putting forward “common sense reforms”, including a ban on assault weapons, universal background checks and an end to legal immunity for gun manufacturers.