Maine Shooting Roils ‘Tight-Knit’ Deaf Community After Members Are Massacred

Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty/New England Bowling/Facebook
Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty/New England Bowling/Facebook

A tight-knit deaf community in Maine is reeling after its members were revealed to be among those gunned down at a popular bar in Lewiston, Maine, on Wednesday night, where cops say the Army reservist Robert Card went on a rampage that left a combined 18 people dead at two crime scenes.

Tributes for those killed began pouring in Thursday afternoon, with the beloved interpreter Joshua Seal, who’d been participating in a cornhole tournament for deaf athletes, being named by his wife as one the victims.

“He was also a wonderful boss, an incredible interpreter, a great friend, a loving son, brother, uncle, and grandson,” his wife, Elizabeth Seal, posted to Facebook. “He loved his family and always put them first. That is what he will always be remembered for.”

Seal, who is deaf himself, was the program director of the interpreting service Pine Tree Society, according to the Maine Department of Labor. His Facebook page was filled with calls for interpreters and spreading awareness about the importance of learning sign language. In 2021, he partnered with the CDC to ensure the agency’s live briefings were accessible to those who couldn’t listen in.

He was also a father of four, Elizabeth said, who “always loved spending time with them, traveling, going for a day trip to the beach, or going camping for the weekend.”

“My heart is shattered into a million pieces for our Deaf community,” wrote Krissey Taplin Richardson in a tribute. Nick Dionne, who was Seal’s college roommate, wrote: “He was such a good man. I am so angry. This was NOT supposed to happen.”

The organization American Deaf Cornhole confirmed its members were having a tournament Wednesday night when shots rang out at Schemengees Bar and Grill. In a statement, it said it sends its “deepest condolences” to everyone impacted, “especially our deaf cornhole players who lost their family/friends.”

Family Reveals Suspected Gunman’s Link to Maine Massacre Sites

Other deaf men confirmed to be killed during the cornhole tournament were Steve Vozzella, Bryan McFarlane, and Bill Bracket. Vozzella’s wife, Megan, told USA Today that the cornhole tournament had 10 participants. If that number is correct, at least half of the men attending were struck by gunfire.

McFarlane’s sister, Keri Brooks, told CNN that the group gathered at the bar every Wednesday night. She called the community “tight-knit,” adding that she was particularly proud her brother, who was 40, was able to be a truck driver despite being born deaf.

Authorities said Thursday that the carnage at Schemengees unfolded 10 minutes after Card, who was still at large Thursday evening, entered a bowling alley called Just-In-Time Recreation and opened fire on the dozens of people inside.

Police said seven people were killed at the bowling alley, and eight at Schemengees. Three others died at Central Maine Medical Hospital, and 13 people were injured in the shootings—including another deaf cornhole player, Kyle Curtis.

Authorities say it’s unclear why Card targeted the establishments, but his sister-in-law, Katie Card, told The Daily Beast on Thursday that Card had claimed he’d heard voices at both shooting sites. She added that Card recently began wearing powerful hearing aids to combat hearing loss

Also confirmed as killed at Schemengees were Ron Morin, Joseph Walker, and Peyton Brewer-Ross. A mutual friend, Daric Collins, confirmed to The Daily Beast. Collins said the trio was scheduled to join him to play in a cornhole league on Thursday night.

“It all ended too soon due to unforeseen violence,” he wrote in a tribute. “You all will be missed by the Cornhole community and impact you guys made with your bright smiles.”

Joseph Walker, the manager of Schemengees, charged at Card with a butcher knife before he was shot dead, his dad, Leroy Walker, told NBC News. The dad of Walker’s best friend, Michael Deslauriers Sr, appeared to confirm a portion of the story in a tribute of his own about the loss of his son, Michael Deslauriers II.

“They made sure their wives and several young children were under cover then they charged the shooter,” the elder Deslauriers wrote about his son and Walker. He added that his son’s death was “the hardest news for a father to ever have to share.”

Survivor Kenny Moore told NewsNation that there was “carnage everywhere” at Just-In-Time Recreation. Its manager, Thomas Gilberti, reportedly charged at Card with two other men, all of which were shot.

“No one could get to him,” Moore said of the gunman. “At that point, he was firing rounds.”

The Facebook page New England Bowling honored Gilberti in a post, saying he survived the shooting but was still fighting for his life in the hospital after being shot in the legs multiple times.

Among those identified as killed at the bowling alley were Bob Violette and Tricia Asselin, who were regulars there. Kaisha Pearl wrote in a tribute that Lewiston’s “bowling community took a huge loss” in Wednesday’s “hellashish attack.”

“You were so selfless and cared so much about everyone around you,” Pearl said of Asselin.

Pearl said that Violette was coaching a youth bowling league when he was gunned down.

“I know damn well he was protecting those children,” she said. “One more day and that could have been me and my family. It's just so messed up.”

Asselin’s brother, DJ Johnson, told CNN that his sister was shot dead while she called 911.

“She wasn't going to run,” Johnson said. “She was going to try and help.”

Rob Young told Reuters that his brother Bill Young and his 14-year-old nephew, Aaron, were among those murdered at the bowling alley. Aaron is the only minor confirmed to have been killed.

“At a loss and still today just as heartbroken as yesterday,” Pearl wrote Thursday. “My heart just hurts.”

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