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Maine’s close-knit deaf community is grieving in the wake of shootings that killed 4 beloved members

Heart-shaped cut-outs with messages of positivity adorns trees in downtown Lewiston, Maine, Thursday, Oct. 26, 2023. The signs are some of the 100 hearts put up by Miaa Zellner of Turner, Maine, to show her love and support for the community in the wake of Wednesday's mass shootings. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

Heart-shaped cut-outs with messages of positivity adorns trees in downtown Lewiston, Maine, Thursday, Oct. 26, 2023. The signs are some of the 100 hearts put up by Miaa Zellner of Turner, Maine, to show her love and support for the community in the wake of Wednesday’s mass shootings. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

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FALMOUTH, Maine (AP) — Maine’s close-knit community of deaf and hard of hearing people is grieving in the wake of the Lewiston shootings that killed beloved members, many of whom were ardent advocates.

The shootings, at a bowling alley and a bar in Lewiston, killed at least four people in the deaf community, the Maine Educational Center for the Deaf said Friday. The shootings killed 18 people in total and injured 13 others.

Joshua Seal, 36, was a sign language interpreter among those killed while he was playing in a cornhole tournament at Schemengees Bar with friends. In the past couple years, he became known as an interpreter during Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s pandemic briefings.

His wife Elizabeth Seal said in a Facebook post that he was “a wonderful husband, my best friend, and my soulmate. He was also a wonderful boss, an incredible interpreter, a great friend, a loving son, brother, uncle, and grandson.”

“It is with a heavy heart that I share with you all that Joshua Seal has passed away … no, he was murdered, in the 10/25 shooting in Lewiston. It still feels surreal,” she wrote.

Billy Brackett, 48; Steve Vozzella, 45; and Bryan MacFarlane, 41, were also stalwart members of Maine’s community of deaf people who died in the shootings, the educational center said. The Maine Educational Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and the Governor Baxter School for the Deaf are located on Mackworth Island in Falmouth, near Portland.

The school and center were closed on Friday due to the shooting, but the island became a gathering place for people to share stories and grieve, said Karen Hopkins, the executive director.

“We have had some people come today to this island to be present and think about the loss in our community,” Hopkins said. “How is this affecting our community? It’s horrific. It’s unimaginable.”

The man wanted in the mass shooting was found dead Friday, authorities said. Robert Card, who was wanted in connection with the shootings at Schemengees Bar and Grille and at Just-In-Time Recreation bowling alley in Lewiston, was found dead in Lisbon Falls, Maine, Gov. Janet Mills said.

The four slain members of the deaf community all have connections to the Maine Educational Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and the Governor Baxter School for the Deaf. Seal had four deaf children who were all connected to the institutions’ educational programs, Hopkins said.

Brackett attended the school and had a daughter who was in early intervention, Hopkins said. MacFarlane also attended the school as a student and Vozzella’s wife Megan was an alumnus of the school, Hopkins said.

“Our staff is struggling because they are our friends,” Hopkins said.

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Associated Press writer Lisa Rathke in Marshfield, Vermont, contributed to this story.

Whittle is an Associated Press reporter based in Portland, Maine. He focuses on the environment and oceans.