Bates College remains on lockdown more than a day after fear gripped campus

Local News

The campus of Bates College in Lewiston is situated about halfway between the two locations where a mass shooter took 18 lives Wednesday night.

Bates College remained on lockdown as roommates Nora Fox (left) and Isabelle Larson sat on the grass at dusk Thursday to get a breath of fresh air. John Tlumacki/Boston Globe

A shelter-in-place order remained in effect at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine Friday, more than 24 hours after 18 people were killed in mass shootings at two local businesses. 

Students and staff were forced to shelter in place Wednesday night, when word spread quickly about the shootings. Authorities say 40-year-old Robert Card of Bowdoin perpetrated the attacks at Schemengees Bar and Grille and at Just-In-Time Recreation, a bowling alley. 

The Bates campus is about halfway between the two locations. Card would have likely driven right by the campus on his way from one location to the other. 

He remained at large Friday morning as law enforcement personnel continued a massive manhunt. 

In interviews with The Boston Globe, Bates students described the harrowing moments when they learned of the shootings and the tense hours that followed. Tamrin Ghai, a sophomore from New York, said she went to the dining hall with friends after rehearsing with her a cappella group. 

“I started hearing that they weren’t letting people leave the building around 8 p.m.,” Ghai told the Globe. “At that point, we thought OK, well if we are going to be here and locked down, we shouldn’t be in the bottom floor where windows are.”

She described staying in the building all night, using tablecloths as blankets and sleeping on the floor. An emergency alert from Bates woke her up at 3:50 a.m. to say that the campus remained in lockdown. Later that morning, students were shuttled back to their dorms. 

Hannah Orton told the Globe she was also in the dining hall when emergency alerts were sent out. Orton, a senior from Littleton, said she experiences anxiety and quickly started thinking through what she would do if the shooter came to campus. Orton’s generation grew up with an ever-present fear of school shootings, and she drew on memories of active shooter drills in her high school. She eventually ran to her dorm around 5 a.m., nervous of being shot the entire time. 

“Sandy Hook happened when I was in elementary school, so all of my life I have been preparing for this,” Orton told the paper. “But I never thought I would have to use those skills.”

Bates updated its community Friday morning, offering virtual support services because an in-person gathering is still not possible. Students were also told about how to access meals while remaining in lockdown. Classes remained canceled. Volunteers will be needed once the shelter-in-place order is lifted, and a sign-up form was shared with students and staff.

“Our Lewiston community has suffered a terrible and senseless tragedy in the past 12 hours, one that touches many who live and work here. No matter how many times something like this happens, I find myself at a loss for words. And this time, it happened so close to home,” President Garry Jenkins wrote in a message to the college community Thursday morning.

Jenkins was set to be inaugurated as the ninth Bates President Friday, with some celebratory events scheduled for Thursday as well, he wrote. All inauguration events have been postponed to an unspecified later date. 

Jenkins told the Globe that he got the news of the shootings while having dinner with his family at home Wednesday night. 

“I was frightened for the community, but you step up and I just felt like I had to do whatever I could to help ensure the safety of our students and our staff,” he said. “Bates is a part of the Lewiston community.”

Jenkins said he was up most of Wednesday night gathering information. It took multiple hours to confirm whether or not anyone from the Bates community was involved in the tragedy. 

One college employee was at one of the shooting locations. They were injured, but are “expected to make a full recovery,” Jenkins wrote. Two students were also nearby one of the crime scenes, but were unharmed. 

Law enforcement officials gave an update on the investigation Friday morning, saying that they had processed more than 530 tips related to the case. The two crime scenes are still being processed, and a strong police presence is expected at them for multiple days. Affidavits are also being drafted so that digital media can be searched. 

Police are searching multiple locations Friday, including the boat launch on the Androscoggin River where a car connected to Card was found after the shooting. Divers, aircraft, and more are being used to search the water and the surrounding areas. Members of the public are encouraged to share any relevant information with authorities through FBI.Gov/LewistonTips. 

In the meantime, students like Ghai are left to pass the hours in their dorms. 

“Everyone was trying not to think about the actual things that were happening and just focusing on what they could control,” she told the Globe. “One of my roommates has been playing guitar, which has been nice to hear.”