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He heard the Lewiston mass shooter firing inside the bar. So he cut the power 'to put him in the dark'

Mar. 18—LEWISTON — Huddled against the back wall of a little utility room at Schemengees Bar and Grille Restaurant on Oct. 25, 2023, Mike Roderick heard the "pop-pop-pop" of a gunman outside and the screams of terrified patrons.

Among them was his 18-year-old son Jack, with whom he'd made eye contact across the room before ducking into the utility room moments earlier.

Then, Roderick said Sunday, he "happened to look up" and notice an electrical panel on the wall to his right with "this big handle."

Without hesitation, Roderick pulled it.

"I just thought that it probably made sense to kill the power, you know, right? I mean, I don't know," he said. "I'm sure I was thinking of my son."

Roderick hadn't seen the shooter, he said, but "I just thought it made sense to put him in the dark."

The lights went off in the building. In the aftermath, in what seemed like no time, he said, Jack was safely in his lap.

And though they didn't know it immediately, the killer was gone.

In just one minute and 18 seconds, Robert Card fired 36 shots at Schemengees with his laser-guided .308 Ruger SFAR8 rifle, killing 10 people and wounding 10 others, according to a state report issued Friday.

Card had already killed another eight people at a Lewiston bowling alley across town.

After the lights went out, the only other person Card shot was himself, two days later in a recycling trailer in Lisbon, where police found his body after a regional manhunt.

Who turned off the lights had long been one of the mysteries of that deadly night. Many proclaimed him a hero, but few knew who he was.

At a hearing this month by The Independent Commission to Investigate the Facts of the Tragedy in Lewiston, Roderick turned up to admit it was him as he aired his grievances about official inaction before the shooting.

"You saved a lot of lives that night," one of the members of the commission, Toby Dilworth, a former assistant U.S. attorney for Maine, told Roderick.

Panel member Geoffrey Rushlau, a former Maine district court judge and ex-district attorney, praised him for "quick thinking under the circumstances."

But Roderick, a China resident who had long hoped to remain anonymous, said he's never thought of himself as a hero.

"I didn't see any point in it," he said. "I couldn't handle it."

Besides, he said, "There were a lot of heroes that day."

After gunning bowlers at Lewiston's Just-In-Time Recreation alley on Mollison Way, Robert Card drove to Schemengees on Lincoln Street, a place where he'd played cornhole in recent years. He parked, grabbed his Ruger SFAR rifle and headed for the front door.

At that moment, Roderick and his quiet, 18-year-old son Jack were playing cornhole. Each of them stood at opposite ends of the court, some 30 feet apart.

They'd been playing in a league for nearly two months and had come to love the game and to bond with fellow players who "had become like our brothers and sisters" as they laughed and chatted, Roderick said.

"It wasn't about wins and losses," he said. "It was just about spending time with my boy," a building trades student at Central Maine Community College in Auburn.

Roderick, finance director for the Central Maine Motors Auto Group in Waterville, had come to love playing cornhole because of the camaraderie it fostered — and because it was easy on aging joints.

Father and son were each wearing Boston Celtics gear at Schemengees to mark the opening night of their team's NBA season.

Roderick posted a picture of them together on Facebook, tagging the location as Schemengees, having no idea the photograph would soon "put the fear of death" into friends noticing it on social media.

When the first shot rang out, Roderick said, it sounded like a balloon popping.

"Nobody really moved," he said, because they didn't know what was happening.

Then two more shots came.

"The next few minutes felt like a lifetime," he said, "and for some, it was."

Everybody inside began "screaming and running and scrambling," Roderick said. "We were all moving towards the back" and away from the front door.

Roderick said he moved with the crowd in the direction of his son.

"Everybody just dove to the ground," he said, tearing up elbows, hands and knees with rug burn as they sought cover.

Roderick said he ended up in a small utility room with half a dozen others.

When he realized his son wasn't in the room with him, Roderick yelled and then stepped back outside to "to look for my son as shots continued to ring out."

"It didn't seem like they would ever stop: Pop, pop, pop, pop."

Fortunately, he soon spotted Jack hiding behind a 3-foot half-wall across the room. They made eye contact, he said, "a huge blessing."

"I will never for the rest of my life get the vision out of my head of seeing my 18-year-old son hiding" as shots rang out, "scared for his life as a shooter was murdering our friends in front of our eyes."

With a large open space between them, Roderick said, "neither of us could move."

Out of options, Roderick said, he "worked my way back to the utility room" and flopped himself back against the wall, the utility handle beside him.

When Roderick pulled the power lever, Card stood nearly face-to-face with Roderick's son, fumbling to reload his gun with a new 30-round magazine.

Suddenly plunged into darkness, those still in the outer room could only see Card's vague outline and the green light of the laser on his gun.

In the confusion and the darkness, Card slipped out a side door, headed for his car and drove away, the last time anyone saw him until police discovered his body.

Jason Barnett, who was playing cornhole at Schemengees that night, recalled the green dot from Card's laser flickering on his own body as the killer stopped to reload.

"That's the same time the lights went out," Barnett told the state commission.

"Mike Broderick, you're my hero," he said.

"If Mike didn't turn those lights off," Barnett said, Card "would have stayed there."

Survivor Ryan Dalessandro told the Sun Journal soon after the massacre that when the shooter stopped to reload, he thought the guy "was going to do another sweep through the building."

Dalessandro said he began "thinking about what I would do" if the gunman started to come his way again when the interior lights of the bar suddenly went out.

The darkness gave him hope, he said, because it became hard to see.

He noted "the green laser point shining around" as Card moved his gun. Then, he said, the killer paused.

"You could tell he was trying to decide what to do next," he said.

Moments later, Card stepped through the arcade exit.

Another survivor, Kelly Sylvia, told WGME in the wake of the shootings, "Honestly, I think just like most of us, if the lights didn't go out, I don't think any of us would have made it out."

"That was a saving grace for a lot of us," said Andrew Chessie, another survivor. "If the lights were on, there would have been a lot more casualties that day."

After the power went out, Roderick said the shooting stopped and not long after, people outside began calling out for the lights to come on again.

But he wasn't sure who was yelling. For all he knew, it was the killer making the request.

When the police arrived, he said, they hustled everybody out, the lights still off.

Later, though, officers came to him in the parking lot. They told him they couldn't find the power panel because it was so dark. They asked for help.

Roderick said he offered to go back inside and flip the handle on.

"I'm just thinking I'll just help," he said.

"The thing I probably never forget is the officer who said, "You're not prepared to see what's in there.'"

Instead of going inside, Roderick explained in detail exactly where he'd been. The police managed to get the lights back on soon after.

When Roderick heard the state commission planned to listen to survivors in Lewiston, he thought he should go and "maybe get some things off my chest" about the failure of authorities to stop Card in the weeks and months before the mass shooting.

He said he just wanted to be heard.

"It wasn't for praise," Roderick said. "I just thought maybe I could get my point across" in a way people could understand and relate to.

"I wasn't thinking of the news and the media," Roderick said.

He said he knew the hearing would be streamed online but he didn't think about the news media and others watching it.

Roderick said he had no idea that all the footage would be accessible to everyone or that television news would show his "crying face" to the state.

"I wasn't prepared for that," he said.

His effort to keep a low profile vanished.

He said he's not happy hearing people call him a hero.

"I'm still grieving," he said. "The focus needed to be on other things and people, not me."

"We're all still mourning," Roderick said. "My only hope is that we can prevent others from having to suffer the nightmares and trauma that will plague us for the rest of our lives."

Roderick's son is a quiet, kind young man who enjoys his studies and is still playing cornhole with his father.

Like many survivors still grappling with the memories of what they witnessed, he said he didn't want to talk about what happened that night at Schemengees.

But he's talked a bit with his dad.

"He said if it wasn't for me, he wouldn't be here," Roderick said.

He closed his eyes and said nothing.

After a long pause, Roderick added, "I struggle with that, you know. I think I struggle with that the most. It's just thinking about losing my son."

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