4 Deaf Friends Were Killed During the Maine Mass Shootings

Multiple members of the deaf community were playing in a cornhole tournament at Schemengees Bar and Grille on Wednesday when gunfire broke out

From left, Billy Brackett, Joshua Seal and Steven Vozzella
From left, Billy Brackett, Joshua Seal and Steven Vozzella

On Wednesday night, multiple friends — including members of the deaf community — gathered at Schemengees Bar and Grille in Lewiston, Maine, to play cornhole. Around 7 p.m., a gunman stormed in the restaurant and opened fire on innocent people for a second time that evening, killing seven people inside and one person outside, officials announced.

Seven other people were killed at Just-In-Time Recreation minutes before the shooting at Schemengees, and three victims died at the hospital, authorities say. In total, the gunman — who is still at large — killed 18 people and injured 13, Maine Governor Janet Mills confirmed. Authorities have identified 40-year-old Robert Card as a suspect in the shootings. He is still considered "armed and dangerous," Mills said.

Four of the people killed at Schemengees — Joshua Seal, Billy Brackett, Steve Vozzella and Bryan MacFarlane — were deaf, according to The Maine Educational Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (MECDHH), and their untimely deaths have left the local deaf community reeling.

"We lost four of our cherished community members in last night’s Lewiston shootings, a statement from MECDHH reads in part. "Including two fathers of children in our programs. Some of our staff were very close to these members of our community."

Related: A Bar Manager, Best Friends and Sister: Remembering the Victims of the Maine Mass Shootings

The friends were playing cornhole at the time they were killed, The New York Times reports.

“Some of them were really passionate about the competition, but really, it was just an opportunity for deaf folks to hang out together, apart from the hearing world,” Joshua's wife, Elizabeth Seal, who is also deaf, told The Times. “To be together and communicate with your people in your language — it is priceless.”

On Facebook, Elizabeth remembered her husband as an amazing father to their four children and "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. He loved his family and always put them first."

Joshua was the Director of Interpreting Services at Pine Tree Society.

"He was a husband, a father of four and a tireless advocate for the Deaf community," the society wrote in a statement. "He was committed to creating safe space for Deaf people."

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MacFarlane's sister, Keri Brooks, told CNN that her brother was also playing cornhole with his friends on Wednesday night.

“I grew up in Maine, and the deaf community is a tight-knit community,” Brooks told CNN. “Not only was my brother slain, but my friends were too.”

Steve's wife Megan Vozzella told USA Today that her husband went to the restaurant to play cornhole with friends. On Facebook, the New England Deaf Cornhole group stated that Steve was a member.

"He won several podiums and eager to play more," a post in the group reads. "He will be missed on and off the courts!"

Related: 18 People Killed, 13 Injured in Maine Mass Shootings, Manhunt for Suspect Ongoing: Governor

Billy Brackett was also playing the game he loved on Wednesday night, according to a GoFundMe created for his family.

"Billy was a son, a husband, a father, a uncle and a friend to many, especially in the deaf community he loved so much," the fundraiser reads. "He loved darts, and has been competing for years, he loved cornhole, enjoyed fishing and hunting."

Brackett leaves behind his wife and 2-year-old daughter, according to the GoFundMe.

According to The Times, two other team members of the nine-person team were injured in the shooting but survived.

During a Friday press conference, authorities confirmed the names of all 18 victims.

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