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Maine city deserted as residents hole up during hunt for killer

Families in Lewiston, Maine, grapple with fear as a gunman's rampage unfolds, forcing them to stay indoors.

When Kyle Green and his partner learned a gunman had just gone on a shooting spree near their home in Lewiston, Maine, they slowly lowered the blinds and told their children it was movie night.

Locking all the doors, they sat down in front of a screen in a darkened upstairs bedroom with their two dogs and dozing kids, age 10 and 12, following the shooting deaths of at least 18 people at a bowling alley and bar-restaurant.

With the suspect still on the run, Green, a 40-year-old software engineer who spoke to AFP in front of his house, said he and his partner “took turns” sleeping, in order to keep watch until the morning.

“Where is he now? Is he here? That’s a terrible feeling,” Green said, clearing his throat to hide emotion.

Like many of his neighbors on his quiet, tree-lined street, he is struggling to process what happened.

‘I was terrified’

On Thursday, Lewiston was practically a ghost town, with residents ordered to stay indoors and schools closed following the Wednesday evening shooting rampage.

A high school parking lot was taken over by police officers in fatigues, armed to the teeth. Streets near the targeted establishments were cordoned off with crime scene tape.

Pharmacies, restaurants and the overwhelming majority of businesses were closed. A few cars passed by from time to time, but the trash has not been collected and no children play outside on slides and swings.

A sign in the city center flashes the message: “Shelter in place.”

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Debra Wright was just sitting down to eat Wednesday evening when she heard police and ambulance sirens wailing. Schemengees, the bar-restaurant targeted by the shooter, is just a three-minute drive from her home.

“When we found out I was terrified,” the 71-year-old told AFP from behind the wheel of her car.

“You know, Maine isn’t usually like this. I’ve lived here all my life,” she said, adding “I will never feel safe like I have.”

Since she will probably spend the night alone at home, Wright said she couldn’t help but be worried, but was reassured by the thought that she had dead bolts installed on her doors.

Plus, “I have my dogs in my house,” she said.

‘It won’t be’

In this normally quiet city, the shootings came as a shock.

“It’s different when this type of tragedy happens in your hometown,” Anthony Nadeau, a 45-year-old state employee who had just finished smoking a cigarette on his porch, told AFP.

He is friends with the owners of the bowling alley, Just-in-Time, and has spent many an evening at Schemengees.

He added that “Maine and a lot of states… could do a little bit more considering the history of gun violence in the United States.”

Green, who staged the movie night with his family, is not optimistic.

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“I’d love to tell you that maybe this is the one that spurs some sort of action,” he said, but then added: “It won’t be.”

“It will be treated like every other mass casualty event.”

– By: © Agence France-Presse

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