LEWISTON, Maine – The state of Maine has experienced a troubling increase in homicides, with the deadliest mass shooting in state history contributing to a record-breaking number of killings in 2023. The devastating events in Lewiston on Oct. 25 resulted in 18 deaths and 13 injuries, shocking a community that prides itself on low crime rates.
These deaths pushed the total number of homicides to 51, surpassing the previous record of 40 killings in 1989. This dramatic increase is a stark contrast to the low of 11 homicides in the year 2000. With several active death investigations still ongoing, the toll may continue to rise by the end of the year.
The shootings in Lewiston, carried out by an Army reservist who later died by suicide, led to a surge in homicides in November. Overworked investigators seeking reinforcements from state police detectives in other parts of the state found themselves buried under a mountain of work.
The string of homicides in Maine includes another mass shooting in April, where four people were killed in Bowdoin by a recently released inmate from the Maine State Prison. The shooter, Joseph Eaton, is facing multiple charges, including four counts of murder, and is awaiting trial. The impact of these tragedies was felt by tens of thousands of residents who were forced to shelter in place, and businesses shut down during a massive manhunt involving as many as 700 law enforcement officers.
The search for answers continues as an independent commission established by Maine Governor Janet Mills and Attorney General Aaron Frey investigates the Lewiston shooting. The commission is seeking subpoena power to obtain the military service records of the shooter, while the Army and the Office of the Inspector General are also conducting their own investigations into the shooter’s mental health and hospitalization.
Overall, the surge in homicides and the devastating impact of mass shootings in Maine underscore the need for a thorough and comprehensive investigation into the contributing factors and potential preventive measures. The state is left grappling with questions about how individuals with a history of concerning behavior are able to access firearms, and how to address the mental health of individuals in crisis.