As shelter order persisted, some Lewiston businesses decided to open anyways

LEWISTON, Maine — Lewiston resident Diane said Friday she could not “take staying home again” after spending the previous day complying with a shelter-in-place order as police scoured the region for a suspected mass shooter.

So Diane, who declined to give her last name, decided to head to downtown Lewiston and open up the Paris Adult Bookstore and Head Shop, a 40-year-old business on Lisbon Street.

“I mean, we have to run a business. We have to make money … we can’t stay closed forever,” she told the Herald while sitting in the store as the shelter-in-place order persisted in the city and surrounding communities.

Lewiston residents appeared to start cautiously venturing out from their homes Friday, the second full day of a shelter-in-place order in the city that also saw law enforcement settle into a massive evidence-gathering and search operation.

The shelter-in-place order was lifted later in the afternoon after most businesses that were open had closed for the day. Officials said they understood the disruptive nature of the order but defended its use as a way to keep residents safe during a dangerous situation.

Authorities are still looking for Robert Card, a 40-year-old man they allege killed 18 people and injured 13 others at two shooting sites in Lewiston, a town of several thousand in Northern Maine that is roughly 140 miles away from Boston.

During the day, fast food restaurants in the city were open, though some with only drive-through windows serving customers. Noticeably more cars were driving up and down main roads compared to Thursday and locals were sitting outside buildings downtown and walking into some shops.

Diane said she was at the bookstore — just blocks away from the local police station — Wednesday when she heard sirens “just going off” around 7 p.m.  Diane said she usually closes the bookstore at 7:30 p.m. but decided to leave early after hearing the commotion.

“I stopped at the gas station down here to get cigarettes on my way home and that’s (when) they told me what was going on,” she said. “And I live on Pond Road and trying to get home was like crazy. You either had five cop cars behind you or five cars coming down this way.”

When Diane finally made it home, she stayed there until Friday morning.

“I couldn’t take it anymore,” she said, adding she spent Thursday tending to yardwork.

Chris Van Buskirk/Boston Herald

The Paris Adult Bookstore and Head Shop on Lisbon Street in Lewiston, Maine. Pictured on Friday, Oct. 27, 2023. (Chris Van Buskirk/Boston Herald)

A handful of other businesses like Diane’s also decided to open up, with workers and owners telling the Herald they were tired of sitting idle.

Ryan Richards runs Sinsemilla, a cannabis dispensary with one retail location on Middle Street in downtown Lewiston. He said he closed the Lewiston store Thursday but opened it back up around 2 p.m. Friday to help customers who rely on cannabis as a medication.

“The only reason we did it is we keep hearing rumblings in the community like we have no place to go,” he said. “So as a business owner … I’m comfortable with the situation. So I was like, alright, we’ll go in there and stand there for the people to see what happens.”

Richards said employees in his roughly 100-person company have been personally affected by the mass shooting, with some losing people close to them in the killings.

“This is a small community,” he said. “Everybody knows somebody who got affected.”

Chris Van Buskirk/Boston Herald

Sinsemilla, a cannabis dispensary in Lewiston, Maine pictured on Friday, Oct. 27, 2023. (Chris Van Buskirk/Boston Herald)

A few streets over from Richards’ dispensary, Lewiston Mayor Carl Sheline was moving a box from one building to the next. He told the Herald before the shelter-in-place order was lifted that it was “important that people stay home.”

“I understand that people are having urgent needs, like parents who need baby formula and people who need medication,” he said. “I realize that people want to get back to normal as quickly as possible but the manhunt is still ongoing, and we need to, as much as possible, observe the shelter-in-place order so that way law enforcement can do their work.”

Even with the warnings in place at the time, some people were carrying out their business in the city. One man was washing his car just after noon at a self service car wash as other vehicles started to pack local roads.

But only a few miles away, police were scouring the Androscoggin River with dive teams and helicopters for clues related to the mass shooting.

A flock of Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents were gathering just across the street from the river at the St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church. Down the road, law enforcement were crowding the bank of a small offshoot of the Androscoggin River.

Maine Department of Public Safety Commissioner Michael Sauschuck told reporters earlier in the day law enforcement planned to have a team of divers working in the river.

“We certainly don’t want to wait too long because the river is a big piece of this, the car was located there, evidence is located in the vehicle or right there along the shores of the Androscoggin River,” he said.

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