Lewiston police Chief David St. Pierre addresses the media on Oct. 27 during a press conference concerning the mass shooting and manhunt for suspect Robert Card. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal file

LEWISTON — As hundreds of local, county, state and federal police officers flooded the streets in Lewiston, Auburn and Lisbon the evening of Oct. 25 searching for Robert Card, every call that came into the Lewiston-Auburn 911 Communications Center until the moment Card was found was treated as a call related to that manhunt, including accidents, fires, disorderly conduct calls and burglaries.

And police responded to each as if they would find Card. “We had to treat every call as a legit suspicious” encounter with Card, Lewiston Lt. Derrick St. Laurent said, making sure there were enough officers to approach a potentially dangerous situation and that each officer had a possible escape route if needed.

Lisbon Chief Ryan McGee echoed the need for complete coverage on all calls, each treated as if there was a connection to Card. “Every single call.”

At 6:56 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 25, the 911 Communications Center received an active shooter call from Just-In-Time Recreation on Mollison Way in Lewiston. Twelve minutes later, at 7:08 p.m., the center received an active shooter call just over 4 miles away at Schemengees Bar & Grille on Lincoln Street.

Card had shot and killed 18 people and injured 13 more at these locations and then escaped by car, launching a massive manhunt and prompting an extended Androscoggin County-wide lockdown.

Dispatch logs obtained by the Sun Journal from the Lewiston-Auburn 911 Communications Center reflect nearly 600 emergency calls recorded in the 48-hour span between when the first call for help came in from Just-In-Time Recreation to the moment Card’s body was found in Lisbon.


By way of comparison, on Oct. 26 — at the height of the search — Lewiston police officers were dispatched to just over 170 calls for service. The day before the shootings, on Oct. 24, there were 71 calls, which is a more typical daily call volume for Lewiston.

Law enforcement officers maintain their presence at Schemengees Bar & Grille on Oct. 28 in the aftermath of a mass shooting in Lewiston. The suspect, Robert Card, a firearms instructor who grew up in the area, was found dead in nearby Lisbon Falls the day before. Matt Rourke/Associated Press file

As high as the two-day 600 dispatch number seems, that number doesn’t reflect the actual number of calls, which could be hundreds higher.

For instance, McGee explained, after Lisbon was locked down and businesses closed, his officers responded to a call from someone who worried that the door to their boiler room was open, thinking Card might be hiding there.

Police found nothing suspicious, but after they checked it a neighbor — who had been watching out the window — asked police to check his garage, so they did. McGee said his officers encountered similar requests from neighbors when responding to many calls, and those secondary calls are not reflected in the dispatch call logs.

Androscoggin County Sheriff Eric Samson said his officers encountered the same thing, with secondary calls piling on top of primary calls. In many cases, when officers arrived in response to a call and pulled into a driveway, house lights were turned on, alerting neighbors who then also asked for help.

There were other calls, too, between officers independent of the communication center using radios, cellphones and email. Between the recorded calls, the secondary calls and the intra- and inter-agency calls, the number is well over 1,000 calls for response over those two days.


Adding to that work was the need for police to either call or visit restaurants and other businesses that were still open Wednesday night to tell people to go home and ask owners to close down, sometimes having to work very hard to convince a business owner that closure was necessary for public safety.

A group of law enforcement members walk up Lisbon Street away from the Androscoggin River search site in Lisbon on Oct. 27. Brianna Soukup/Portland Press Herald file

In Lisbon, just two officers were scheduled to be on duty the evening of Oct. 25 when they were called to respond to Schemengees at 7:17 p.m. to assist another department. They got there so quickly that they loaded injured people into cruisers and drove them to Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston ahead of ambulances, McGee said.

Lisbon has 16 officers on staff and 15 of them responded almost immediately after the active shooter calls were confirmed, McGee said. The 16th officer, who was vacationing in Florida with his family, recognized how urgent the situation was and how busy his colleagues were and offered to head home to help.

Auburn police Chief Jason Moen, who estimated 85% of his officers responded to help immediately after the shootings, said he advised officers that “Card’s in the wind and we don’t know where he is,” so treat every call as connected to the manhunt.

He compared that tactic to the search for the Boston Marathon bombers in 2013, which also featured a lockdown that brought fear to the greater Boston area.

“Everybody was calling in everything because they were afraid of their own shadow,” Moen said, and police there treated each call as a potential lead. “You have to treat everything as real,” he said, “every suspicious vehicle and every suspicious person as the real thing until we could prove otherwise.”


After the Boston bombing, it was a call from a homeowner in Watertown, Massachusetts, about suspicious activity on his property that resulted in the capture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev hiding in a boat in that man’s yard.

First responders talk in front of a helicopter on the football field at Lewiston High School on Oct. 26. Brianna Soukup/Portland Press Herald file

“So,” Moen said, “we’re dealing with the manhunt and we’ve got our regular calls for service on top of that, including burglaries. The world didn’t stop because of the incident. People still had calls for service,” and dispatchers helped police prioritize emergency over routine calls within the growing volume of calls.

“People were on edge,” he said, and police understood the fear, which is partly why so many officers responded for duty, to help not only with the search, but with the regular emergency call workload that comes each day.

That included two separate calls Friday evening in Auburn, very shortly before Card’s body was found, for fireworks violations within 45 minutes of one another, the first on Old Danville Corner Road and the second on Court Street.

It was the same in Lewiston, where St. Laurent said, locked-down residents were “fearful in their homes thinking this guy hasn’t been found, they’re glued to their windows” and calling in every suspicious person, suspicious vehicle and suspicious activity they saw.

The whole department worked the shooting response, St. Laurent said, but “just because we had this manhunt didn’t mean we could stop responding to other calls for service,” including a number of calls for medical help.


Some of the more routine calls for service that Lewiston responded to included a criminal mischief complaint at the Ramada Inn just after midnight on Oct. 25, parking violations, broken down vehicles, a number of disorderly disturbance calls and a number of calls for thefts and burglaries across the city.

Even though there were plenty of routine calls, St. Laurent said a vast majority of the calls for police were tied to the manhunt and the citywide shutdown. People were very nervous and, for instance, called in after seeing a car they’ve never noticed in their neighborhood before. “We had to check them all. Clear them all.”

Authorities leave the scene at Meadow Road in Bowdoin after searching the house and property on Oct. 26. Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald file

In Lisbon, McGee said the response to what would otherwise have been a routine call brought heightened stress as officers carried on the search, not knowing if they’d end up confronting Card.

For instance, at 3:13 a.m. Oct. 26, a little more than eight hours after the shootings, McGee stopped a car that was speeding on Lisbon Street near the Topsham town line. He and his officers had been on high alert for hours, he said, knowing that Card was a “highly trained and dangerous person,” and he remembers stopping the car because he didn’t know whether it was merely someone speeding through town or whether Card had stolen a car from someone’s yard and was speeding away.

The driver was harmless so McGee issued a warning and let him go.

Police found Card’s white Subaru Outback at the boat launch in Lisbon hours earlier as a result of a call about a suspicious vehicle, but didn’t know whether he was then on foot or had access to another car.


“It was a worst-case scenario, I think, that my officers were up against,” McGee said, working under the pressure of the manhunt as details emerged about who they were looking for, especially after Card’s car was found and the search in Lisbon intensified.

“It was hard to keep track of everything,” Sheriff Samson said, as the search was highly active in Lewiston and Auburn before ramping up in Lisbon. Because the sheriff’s department covers all of Androscoggin County, they were also answering routine calls for a burglary in Livermore Falls, a disorderly disturbance in Greene, report of telephone harassment in Mechanic Falls, and other routine incidents while responding to calls for suspicious people and vehicles in Lewiston and Auburn.

To make sure he had enough personnel to cover it all, Samson said the entire patrol division was called in and he called in his transport deputies, who are the officers responsible for bringing prisoners to court appearances, and had them handling calls and partnering with other officers in patrol cars.

One of those transport deputies responded to a call for a car-deer accident in Durham in the early hours of the lockdown, and the deer was so badly wounded that the officer euthanized the animal on the spot. People who heard that gunfire immediately reported it and suddenly there was worry that Card had sighted another target, so there was a lot of radio chatter to determine exactly how many shots had been fired to ensure all three were fired from that deputy’s weapon.

Moen estimates that within 60 to 90 minutes after the first shooting was reported, there were 125 police officers in Lewiston, 40 ambulances and five helicopters. “It’s reassuring knowing we can get the resources when we need them,” he said, crediting the interoperability among local, county and state police departments with elevating response time and maintaining communication between departments.

One of the responding officers was from the Sanford Police Department who happened to be dining with his parents at DaVinci’s Eatery. When he recognized how serious the situation was, he showed up at the Lewiston police station to help. He was issued equipment and jumped in a cruiser to partner with another officer.


In Lewiston, an officer who was working a detail at a Lewiston High School soccer game heard the call and was one of the first responders to the bowling alley, along with off-duty officers who happened to be at a nearby shooting range.

St. Laurent said a retired officer arrived at the police station and stood in the lobby to let people in and make sure they really belonged there, and others — sworn officers and civilian employees — flowed in to work wherever they were needed.

The high level of response came at a cost to police departments.

Police, including FBI members, gather around multiple SWAT armored vehicles on West Road in Bowdoin on Thursday, Oct. 26, near the residence of Robert Card. Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald file

In Lisbon, McGee spent $22,000 in overtime during and immediately following the initial response.

Auburn spent about the same, Moen said, for about 300 hours of overtime pay. “You add in the presidential visit and that was about 150 hours of overtime, so another $11,000,” in unbudgeted overtime.

In Lewiston, where officers also worked extra shifts and long hours, the department spent $68,167 on overtime that was tied directly to the hunt for Card, and also to pay officers who were providing security at both crime scenes, at both of Lewiston’s hospitals, and manning the victim resource center at the armory in the days following the shootings.


Samson estimates his department spent nearly $26,000 in overtime pay, with up to 30 officers on shift at the same time compared to a more regular evening shift with just five officers. Deputies also staffed security at the armory and the hospitals, and at the vigil held at the former Worumbo Mill site in Lisbon Falls on Oct. 28.

Samson said that police working in an emergency situation is not the time to think about the cost of response. “There’s not a time to worry about those things when you’re doing it. There’s always going to be a body, whether it’s a city council or county commission, that’s going to have to figure out how to pay for this.”

The costs to provide police detail for presidential visits fall to individual police departments, but Lisbon, Lewiston, Auburn and Androscoggin County are working with state officials, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Bureau of Justice Assistance to see if there may be grant funding, or other funding, to cover the unbudgeted overtime costs.

“It’s a relief, not just for my department financially, but for our community as well,” McGee said.

It won’t be fast relief, though. Samson said if reimbursement is approved, they could be waiting between 18 and 24 months to see that money.

In the aftermath of the shootings and manhunt, McGee said his department is starting up a new peer support program for officers and he’s considering purchasing more protective gear, like ballistic helmets. He’s looking at grants and other resources to pay for those “so my department can stay healthy and do their jobs. I want everybody to go home safely every day. It’s a constant worry.”


McGee and his staff are also going through their policies and procedures, tactics and training, he said, which is something they do any time there’s a mass shooting incident anywhere in the country.

After a recent mass shooting at a school, the department purchased a battery-operated diamond-tipped saw that can cut through steel or concrete “in case we need to cut through a barricaded classroom, or something,” he said.

In Auburn, Moen said he’s going to be looking at notification software so mass text messages can be sent simultaneously to call in off-duty officers for any large response. After the first active shooter call, he said civilian staff immediately came in and made individual phone calls to each officer. Software to push out texts to everyone would be more efficient if the department needs to do that for another large-scale emergency, he explained.

Androscoggin County deputies have had ballistic helmets for five years and already use a mass text message system, but Samson has asked his officers what else they think they may need for large-scale emergency response. He said they may consider upgrading their helmets and getting additional body armor, but they’re also looking at the possibility of equipping deputies with night vision gear.

The high cost of response is not what these police administrators are going to remember. Each one of them said they marveled at the departmental cooperation and heroism displayed by their officers in the response to help victims and the ensuing search for Card.

“The resources that arrived that night from other agencies were absolutely needed,” Samson said.

“I’m really proud of not just my department, but what all departments did,” McGee said. He was struck by the dedication to service, and at some point “I ended up having to force some of my officers to go home and get some sleep.”

And, he said, the public’s vigilance in reporting suspicious activity was a great help to law enforcement, and he will continue to “empower the public, if you see something say something. Even the littlest thing, realistically, could be something that helps somebody else.”

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