The American authorities are leading a gigantic hunt in the northeast of the United States on Thursday to find the author of a killing which left 18 dead and 13 injured the day before, the worst this year in the country.
The shootings took place early Wednesday evening in a bowling alley and a bar-restaurant in Lewiston, the second largest city in Maine, a rural and wooded state on the American east coast.
Hundreds of police patrol the area in search of the suspected shooter identified by the authorities: Robert Card, 40, on the run.
“Armed and dangerous” according to the authorities, he is an army reservist. A photo released by police shows a man dressed in a brown top entering the bowling alley, a semi-automatic rifle on his shoulder.
Thursday, Lewiston was a ghost town.
Schools closed their doors, businesses too, and the high school parking lot was taken over by police officers in fatigues, armed to the teeth.
Residents were ordered to self-isolate. Like Kyle Green's family, who barricaded themselves in their home.
When he and his partner learned Wednesday evening that the shooter was on the run, they “slowly lowered the blinds” so as not to frighten their children and under the pretext of a “family movie” evening to turn off all the lights. After locking the doors, they took turns to stand guard until morning, said this 40-year-old engineer outside his house.
“It’s a dark day for Maine,” said declared Thursday Janet Mills, the governor of the state, announcing the very heavy toll.
Thursday afternoon, the police intervened around the house of the suspect's father in the nearby town of Bowdoin, an AFP team noted on site.
– “Tragic and senseless” –
Seven people, one woman and six men, lost their lives at the bowling alley, eight in a restaurant about twelve minutes away, and finally three in the hospital.
United States: killings in Lewiston © AFP – Nalini LEPETIT-CHELLA, Jean-Michel CORNU
Witnesses at the Just-In-Time recreation bowling alley described how customers hid under the tables and in the machines at the end of the lanes. “I was lying on top of my daughter, my mother was lying on top of me,” Riley Dumont told ABC.
Authorities have not released the identities of the victims, but Among the lives lost at the “Schemengees” restaurant was that of Joseph Walker, 57, who worked in the establishment, his father told several American media.
According to him, the police told the family that his son had tried to stop the killer with a kitchen knife before being killed.
Joe Biden deplored Thursday morning a “tragic and senseless” act ” and ordered flags on federal buildings to be flown at half-mast.
“Once again, our nation is in mourning,” lamented the American president, calling on Congress to adopt “a ban on assault weapons” – yet another call of its kind by the Democrat despite a majority not found for decades for such a change in legislation.
During a press conference Thursday evening, a Democratic elected official, representing the district which includes Lewiston, announced a change of heart in light of this event and now supports such a measure.
– Dissemination –
Members of the police gathered in front of Lewiston high school, October 26, 2023 in Maine © AFP – Joseph Prezioso
Wednesday's killing is the worst in the United States since that of the school of Uvalde in Texas, where a shooter killed 19 children and two teachers in May 2022.
The country is paying a very heavy price for the spread of firearms on their territory and the ease with which the Americans have access to them.
The United States has more individual weapons than inhabitants. Excluding suicides, more than 15,000 people have died in gun violence since the start of the year in the country, and Wednesday's attack is the deadliest recorded over the period, according to the Gun Violence Archive association ( GVA).
Maine is one of the states with the lowest homicide rate per capita, and Wednesday's 18 deaths represent, according to the Everytown association, more than the annual average for 'firearm homicides in the State.
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