PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — The deadliest mass shooting in Maine history propelled homicides to a new high in the state in 2023, topping 50 to shatter the previous record with the close of 2023, officials said.
Eighteen people were killed and 13 injured in the Oct. 25 shootings in Lewiston, a stunning crime in a state that prides itself on low crime rates, and those deaths helped push the number of killings beyond the previous record of 40 killings in 1989, said state police spokesperson Shannon Moss.
As of Friday, the tally stood at 51 homicides, with several active death investigations still underway, she said. That stands in stark contrast to 2000, when there were only 11 homicides, the lowest since the state began compiling numbers.
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The homicides didn’t end with the shootings in Lewiston by an Army reservist, Robert Card II, who died by suicide. November was also a deadly month, with at least 10 homicides, and overworked investigators needed reinforcements from state police detectives in other parts of the state, Moss said.
Homicide investigations are exceptionally painstaking and time consuming, and Moss said state police were “buried under a mountain of work.”
The homicides in Maine included another mass shooting, the April killing of four people in Bowdoin by a man who'd been recently released from the Maine State Prison. Three others were shot on I-295 before the gunman's arrest. Joseph Eaton is awaiting trial on charges including four counts of murder.
The shootings on Oct. 25 at a bar and a bowling alley in Lewiston forced tens of thousands of residents to shelter in place for several days. Grocery stores, gas stations and restaurants were closed during the biggest manhunt in state history, involving as many as 700 law enforcement officers.
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The search came to an end when Card's body was found in a nearby town, but questions remain about how he was able to access guns after being hospitalized, making threats and exhibiting unusual behavior.
An independent commission established by Maine Gov. Janet Mills and Attorney General Aaron Frey is investigating the shooting, and is seeking subpoena power so it can obtain the military service records of the shooter.
The Army is also investigating Card, who was a reservist. The Office of the Inspector General, meanwhile, is seeking answers from the Army about his mental health and hospitalization.