In this image taken from video released by the Androscoggin County Sheriff's Office, an unidentified gunman points a gun while entering Sparetime Recreation in Lewiston, Maine. (Androscoggin County Sheriff's Office via AP)
WASHINGTON: At least 22 people were killed and "many, many more" were injured in shootings in the city of Lewiston, Maine Wednesday evening, city officials reported, overwhelming local hospitals with gunshot victims.
City Councilor Robert McCarthy told CNN that the death toll had risen to 22 in the shooting spree that took place at a bowling alley and also at least one other location, a local restaurant and bar, according to media.
"My understanding is that they have a tentative identification... of the shooter at the bowling alley, confirmed 22 dead, many, many more injured," McCarthy said.
Rescue vehicles rushed in from around central Maine to tend to the wounded, McCarthy said, and the two Lewiston hospitals "have called in every off-duty staff member that they could to deal with this."
President Joe Biden made calls -- while a state dinner honoring Australia's prime minister was underway -- to Maine's governor, its two senators and a local congressman to offer federal support, the White House said.
Local police posted a photo of the shooter on Facebook carrying what appeared to be a semi-automatic weapon inside the bowling alley.
They later issued a bulletin for 40-year-old Robert Card, saying the suspect in the mass shooting "should be considered armed and dangerous."
"Please contact law enforcement if you are aware of his whereabouts."
Police also released a picture of a white SUV, and asked for the public's help in identifying the vehicle, saying its front bumper may have been painted black.
Law enforcement "are investigating two active shooter events," the Androscoggin County Sheriff's Department wrote on Facebook.
"We are encouraging all businesses to lock down and or close while we investigate. The suspect is still at large."
Maine Governor Janet Mills said she was "aware of and have been briefed on the active shooter situation in Lewiston."
CNN reported that at least 50 to 60 people were injured in the incidents, citing multiple law enforcement sources, but said it was unclear how many of the injuries were the result of gunfire.
Police and rescuers reportedly arrived at the Sparetime Recreation bowling alley at approximately 7:15 pm local time in response to an active shooter, and thereafter received reports of another shooting at the Schemengees Bar & Grille, according to the Sun Journal local newspaper.
At 8:15 pm, another shooting was reported at a local Walmart distribution center, it said.
Maine Congressman Jared Golden wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter that "like all Mainers, I'm horrified by the events in Lewison tonight. This is my hometown."
"Right now, all of us are looking to local law enforcement as they gain control of the situation and gather information. Our hearts break for those who are affected," he said.
Distraught citizens flocked to local hospitals.
"I'm just overwhelmed. I've been here trying to spread, you know, some kind of comfort, some kind of support," Cynthia Hunter, a local resident, told CBS affiliate WGME.
The shooting is one of the deadliest since 2017, when a gunman opened fire on a crowded music festival in Las Vegas, killing some 60 people.
Gun violence is alarmingly common in the United States, a country where there are more guns than people and where attempts to clamp down on their spread are always met with stiff resistance.
The United States has recorded over 500 mass shootings this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a non-governmental organization that defines a mass shooting as four or more people wounded or killed.
Efforts to tighten gun controls have for years run up against opposition from Republicans, staunch defenders of the constitutional right to bear arms.
The political paralysis endures despite widespread outrage over recurring shootings.