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The manhunt for the suspect in the mass shooting in Maine stretches into third day

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

It has been another frustrating, painful day for people around Lewiston, Maine, where 18 people died in this week's mass shooting. The prime suspect still has not been located. Much of the search effort today focused on the water of the Androscoggin River. NPR's Brian Mann was at that river earlier today while state police divers were in it. Hey, Brian.

BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: Hi, Ailsa.

CHANG: OK, so what were these divers looking for exactly in that river?

MANN: Yeah. One possibility here is that Robert Card, the prime suspect, is no longer alive, that he took his own life. Authorities aren't speculating about this. They won't reveal the contents of a note that they have now confirmed that they found on one of his family's properties. But what they're doing now is searching the river bottom, searching the bank of the Androscoggin River and nearby forests. Mark Latti with the Maine Department of Fisheries and Wildlife helped coordinate this part of the search today, which actually took place where Robert Card's car was found at a boat launch.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MARK LATTI: In these type of searches, sometimes the best thing is that we're able to eliminate an area and go to another area. By clearing the banks, clearing the island, we can send some of our searchers into other areas.

MANN: So you can hear, Ailsa, there they're describing this as progress, but no big clues found, no breakthrough so far today.

CHANG: No idea if he's dead or alive. OK. Well, I understand questions are being raised about how Card was able to even have those powerful firearms, even though there were concerns about his mental health, right? What do we know about that?

MANN: Yeah, this is interesting. He was an Army reservist, and last summer concerns were raised by military officials about his erratic behavior. He was taken to a hospital at one point. It's still unclear whether police here in Maine were warned of threats or safety concerns linked to Card that might have triggered the state's yellow flag law, which in theory allows police to seize guns from people who might be at risk to themselves or others. Mike Sauschuck, who's commissioner of the Maine Department of Public Safety, was asked about this this morning.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MIKE SAUSCHUCK: Well, I'm heavily involved in the yellow flag conversation overall. But the reality for today is that I'm not going to talk specifically about who knew what and when. We're still actively involved in a very dynamic situation here. There will be a time.

UNIDENTIFIED JOURNALIST: Can you confirm warnings were issued?

SAUSCHUCK: I cannot. I cannot confirm that one.

MANN: So again, Ailsa, there's a lot we don't know here. But speaking yesterday, Maine's Republican senator, Susan Collins, also raised this issue. She said more could have been done to protect this community.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SUSAN COLLINS: It certainly seems that on the basis of the facts that we have, that the yellow flag flag should have been triggered if, in fact, the suspect was hospitalized for two weeks for mental illness. He should have been separated from his weapons.

MANN: So pressure is really growing on law enforcement to talk about what they knew about Robert Card before this attack and what actions they did or didn't take.

CHANG: Yeah. Well, in the meantime, are these shelter-in-place orders still in effect, and how are people dealing with them?

MANN: No. In fact, the shelter in order place (ph) has been rescinded. This happened just after 5 pm local time. And - so in theory, things here can start to move back toward a new kind of normal. Schools, until now, have been closed, kids' sports events cancelled or delayed. Now things will start opening up again. There is one big exception, Ailsa. Deer hunting is a huge deal here in Maine, and the season opens tomorrow. In theory, that would have meant a lot of people out with rifles in the woods near Lewiston, where this search continues. But state officials announced late this afternoon they're going to prohibit hunting until further notice in four towns - Bowdoin, Lewiston, Lisbon, and Monmouth. No clarity yet on how long officials are going to keep that in place. We're getting the sense from police, they think this search could go on a long time.

CHANG: And, Brian, what are we learning so far about the victims?

MANN: Well, Maine's chief medical examiner has confirmed to NPR in an email that all 18 people who died have now finally been identified. They range in age from 14 to 76. Those lost include Joe Walker, the bar manager at Schemengees, where one of the shootings took place. His dad told NBC News that Joe was a great son and a loving husband. Tricia Asselin worked at the bowling alley where more of the violence took place. She was remembered as fun and happy-go-lucky. One thing we are hearing now is that officials are trying to help arrange public vigils, places to gather. That's been delayed so far by these lockdowns.

CHANG: That is NPR's Brian Mann in Lewiston, Maine. Thank you so much, Brian.

MANN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Brian Mann is NPR's first national addiction correspondent. He also covers breaking news in the U.S. and around the world.