Three days later Card could have shot up the Maine countryside legally, if he only killed the bag limit of deer
LISBON FALLS, Maine––Robert Card, 40, a lifelong deer hunter, shot 18 people dead, wounding 13 others, at the Sparetime Recreation bowling alley and then at the nearby Schemengees Bar & Grille in Lewiston, Maine, on the night of October 25, 2023.
The fact perhaps most clearly demonstrating to many observers that Card must have been severely mentally ill is that he went on his killing rampage, AR-15-type semi-automatic rifle in hand, only three days before the Maine rifle deer season opened on October 28, 2023 with “Maine residents only” day.
Nearly 208,000 Maine residents look forward to deer season each year as their chance to go out and kill something legally. Whether shooting 42,000 deer per year, at least some as possible surrogates for shooting humans, contributes to the low Maine murder rate of about 20 humans per year might be debated.
15% of the Maine population hunts
Fifteen percent of the Maine population hunts, the sixth highest ratio of any U.S. state, approximately five times the average rate of hunting participation nationally.
Card was found dead on the evening of October 27, 2023 from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office confirmed to media, after an intensive two-day manhunt that caused school cancellations and involved law enforcement agencies from northern Massachusetts to southern Quebec and northeastern New Hampshire.
“Maine residents only” deer hunting day was temporarily suspended in Androscoggin County while Card was believed to be at large, lest gunshots fired at deer be mistaken for Card shooting up additional possible targets.
Card’s two former wives, his 18-year-old son, former employers, and a former girlfriend were mentioned as potential Card targets by media near the scene.
A suicide note was reportedly addressed to Card’s son.
“Maine residents only” deer hunting day reinstated
Maine residents, who had been advised to “shelter in place,” and Androscoggin county deer hunters in particular, heaved signs of relief after Card was found dead, and “Maine residents only” deer hunting day was reinstated.
Card’s remains were discovered in a wooded area behind the Maine Recycling Corporation in Lisbon Falls, about eight miles southeast of Lewiston, where he shot his 31 victims, but only about eight tenths of a mile from where Card’s white Subaru Outback was found earlier at the Miller Park boat ramp on an inlet from the Androscoggin River.
Card had reportedly been recently fired by the Maine Recycling Corporation.
Most media coverage ignored the hunting connection
Emailed an ANIMALS 24-7 reader who lives about 10 miles from where Card’s body was found, even closer to where Card lived for most of his life in Bowdoin, Maine, and also not far from Lewiston, “I am not surprised that most news media coverage did not mention a couple of interviews with neighbors who mentioned that the Card family were gun people, hunters, and that the sound of gunshots was constant in that area. Maybe those who spoke up were fearful of reprisals. That is how it is where the gun culture works its way into being seen as ‘normal.’”
The most thorough mass media discussion of Card’s hunting background, and the part it might have had in enabling him to become a mass murderer, came from Steven Vago and Megan Palin of the New York Post, who interviewed acquaintance and former neighbor Rick Goddard.
Quiet people, except when shooting guns
Goddard, 44, “lives less than a mile down the road from Card’s parents in Bowdoin, where the suspect grew up, and has known the family for decades,” Vago and Palin opened.
“Goddard said he also went to school with Card, who was a few grades behind him at Mount Ararat High,” Vago and Palin added.
“According to his neighbor,” Vago and Palin said, “Card is a hunter who is ‘capable of hiding for a long time.’
“They’re really quiet people,” Goddard told Vago and Palin. “His whole family owns hundreds of acres around my house. They’re a farming family. They stay to themselves, but they’re good, hardworking people.”
“It doesn’t make any sense”
Goddard told Vago and Palin that “The last time he saw Card had been about two weeks ago ‘when he and his father were haying the field across the street,’ — but he hadn’t spoken to Card for a couple of years,” Vago and Palin summarized.
“I talked to his brother last year and he was looking for a deer that he shot in the fields by his father’s house,” Goddard recalled.
“I saw a flashlight in the back of my house so I went down to see who was there. He was just telling me he was trying to help his brother find a deer.”
Of Robert Card’s mass shootings, Goddard said, “I didn’t think it could be anything possible of the truth. It doesn’t make any sense.”
“Covered in blood”
Except that it does. Rural mass shooters over the 30 years that ANIMALS 24-7 has kept track have overwhelmingly been of hunting background, using primarily weapons ostensibly owned for use in hunting.
Another neighbor, Liam Kent of Bowdoin, told NBC News that the Card family “would shoot guns all the time. You could hear them every day after school.”
Kent added that he once saw Card “covered in blood with a gun on his back [and] a giant grin on his face” after Card killed a deer.
After graduation from Mount Ararat High, in Topsham, Maine, Robert Card was admitted to the University of Maine to study engineering, but apparently did not graduate.
“Humanitarian Service Medal”?!
Robert Card at age 20 in 2002 joined the U.S. Army Reserves, remaining enlisted until his death.
Reportedly never deployed to combat overseas, Card was said to have received military awards including the Army Achievement Medal, Army Reserve Component Achievement Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, and Army Service Ribbon.
In mid-July 2023, CBS News reported, superiors in the U.S. Army Reserve 3rd battalion told garrison staff at Camp Smith in Cortlandt, New York, that Card was “behaving erratically.”
“The battalion was staying at the Camp Smith training site in Cortlandt while training at the U.S. Military Academy” in nearby West Point, CBS News said.
Two weeks in an Army mental hospital
“Out of concern for his safety, the unit requested that law enforcement be contacted,” a U.S. Army Reserve spokesperson told CBS News.
“New York State Police responded and transported Card to Keller Army Community Hospital at the United States Military Academy [in West Point] for medical evaluation,” CBS News summarized.
Card was discharged from the hospital two weeks later.
Card’s sister-in-law Katie Card and other family members told media that Card, who suffered from severe hearing loss, had previously claimed he was hearing voices ‘bashing him’ at the bowling alley and bar where he killed sixteen men and two women, especially after getting a new and stronger hearing aid.
The Robert Card case resembled many others involving hunters turned mass shooter.
Jaylen Ray Fryberg, for instance, a 14-year-old freshman at Pilchuck High School in Marysville, Washington, as of October 2014 was already an accomplished hunter, having recently bagged both an elk and a deer.
A football player who on October 17, 2014 had been voted freshman homecoming king, Fryberg during the next week became distraught over a break-up with a girl he had dated since the seventh grade.
Fryberg allegedly got into a fight at football practice and was suspended from the team.
Killed two girls & shot himself
Then, on October 24, 2014, Fryberg opened fire on five fellow students at the lunch table they often shared, taking head shots at close range from behind. He killed two girls, critically wounding another girl and his 15-year-old cousin Andrew Fryberg.
Accosted by a female cafeteria staff member, Jaylen Fryberg then fatally shot himself in the neck.
Four percent or fewer of teens today have hunting background, but half or more of the perpetrators of multiple killings at schools in recent decades have either had known hunting background or have used hunting weapons.
Perhaps this is chiefly because teens who hunt are more likely than others to have access to guns in their homes. Or perhaps teens who hunt are more likely to have lowered inhibitions against killing.
Or perhaps both hunting and committing murder in response to perceived slights, including social rejection, bullying, and relationship failures, reflect the degree to which a social characteristic called dominionism prevails in a particular family or community.
The late Yale University professor Stephen Kellert, in a 1980 study commissioned by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, defined dominionism as an attitude in which “primary satisfactions [are] derived from mastery or control over animals,” a definition which other investigators later extended to include the exercise of “mastery or control” over women and children.
Hunters twice as dominionistic as average American
Kellert reported that the degree of dominionism in the American public as a whole rated just 2.0 on a scale of 18. Humane society members rated only 0.9. Recreational hunters, however, rated from 3.8 to 4.1, while trappers scored 8.5.
Neither Robert Card nor Jaylen Fryberg, barely a third of Card’s age, could cope with social circumstances they could not control.
Rampage killing, using the weapons and skills they learned as hunters, was their futile response.