Wharf Street in Portland’s Old Port was the scene of a double shooting early Monday morning. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Two people were seriously wounded in a shooting early Monday in the Old Port, the latest outburst of violence in a wave of crime in Portland that is challenging police and concerning community leaders.

The two victims, who are in stable condition at Maine Medical Center, were not identified by police, and investigators have not said what the suspected motive may have been.

The shooting occurred on the sidewalk outside The Drink Exchange, a bar at 43 Wharf St. Two officers on foot patrol heard gunfire before 1 a.m. and found a 34-year-old man who had been shot several times, police said. The second victim, a 22-year-old woman, made it a short distance away and collapsed at the corner of Fore and Union streets, according to Maj. Robert Martin of the Portland Police Department.

Officers applied tourniquets and trauma wound seals to both victims while waiting for ambulances to arrive.

The nightlife hot spot was quiet Monday. Remnants of police tape, orange crime scene paint on the pavement and a small amount of blood staining the cobblestones were the only indicators of the previous night’s violence.

Portland police did not release any other details about the shooting, including whether a suspect has been identified.


The string of shootings and a significant rise in stabbings this year has challenged the police department, interim Chief Heath Gorham said. Gorham, city leaders, Cumberland County District Attorney Jonathan Sahrbeck and Sheriff Kevin Joyce held a news conference Friday to call out the violence and announce strategy changes to amp up police patrols.

But officers around the county, including in Portland, have been limited in whom they may arrest. The Cumberland County Jail is so short-staffed that the sheriff has closed the facility to new prisoners except for the most serious felony charges. Roughly 100 employees are running the facility, about half the authorized force. Portland police have struggled to recruit, as well, and the department is down 25 officers.


The combined effect has put more pressure on the city’s police, who are seeing an attitude of lawlessness along with the sharp spike in violence, Gorham said.

So far this year, there have been 17 stabbings in Portland, a 31 percent increase from the same time last year. Gun violence has more than doubled from this time in 2021. Before Monday, there had been 42 shootings that resulted in seven victims, two deaths and four arrests, according to department statistics. Within the last two weeks, police have responded to five shootings within six days.

Mayor Kate Snyder said she was taken aback by the fresh shooting Monday morning.


“I’m very upset, as I think we all are,” she said. “To see an increased level of violence, especially gun violence, in the city of Portland is shocking.”

Snyder said decreased capacity at the Cumberland County Jail remains a concern for her and other city officials. “When we’re unable to … have the full complement of staffing at the jail to help manage some of the issues that can escalate, that topic is very important,” Snyder said.

Remnants of crime scene tape remain on a light pole at the end of Wharf Street at Union Street on Monday. Two people were wounded in a shooting on Wharf Street in the early hours of Monday. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

The mayor was at the Friday news conference, where she said she was able to get a thorough update on the police response to recent incidents.

“There are a lot of factors at play here with regard to staffing shortages at the police department and staffing shortages at the jail, which leads to decreased capacity,” Snyder said. “But that being said, waking up to news of another shooting in Portland is just devastating.”


Some in the business community also expressed concern about the latest shooting Monday. “Everyone worries about the safety and well-being of their employees and customers,” Quincy Hentzel, chief executive officer of the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce, said in an email. “We live and work in what has been a relatively safe community, so naturally any sign of an increase in crime is worrisome to everyone.”


Cary Tyson, executive director of Portland Downtown, a nonprofit focused on improving and promoting the downtown district, said he reached out to his staff Monday morning to talk about hosting a downtown business community meeting. “There does seem to have been an uptick (in violence) in recent weeks and that is unusual,” Tyson said. “It is overall a safe city and safe downtown, but some of these incidents are concerning and we need to be sure we’re being proactive and having conversations about it.”

The shooting is the second near the Wharf Street bar this year. The first occurred Feb. 10, when a man was cited by police for fighting at the bar. He was released by officers and returned to the establishment despite instructions to stay away. A second fight ensued and someone at the bar shot the man; no one has been charged in that case, and the man was treated for his injuries.

Last Friday, Portland police announced the department is shifting resources to address the increases in violent crime in the city this year. It will now limit outside officer details in an effort to increase patrols in hot spots. The department also will add more two-officer patrols citywide.

Last Tuesday, police charged 22-year-old Abdihamit Ali of Portland after a 20-year-old woman was wounded the previous weekend.

On Wednesday, a 31-year-old Portland man, Walter Omal, was shot and killed in Deering Oaks. A day later, investigators charged Amin Awies Mohamed, 38, of Boston, with Omal’s killing. He is now being held without bail at the Cumberland County Jail.

In a third recent incident, a mentally unstable man was found shooting a gun into the air near the intersection of Bolton Street and Brighton Avenue, police said.

Staff Writer Rachel Ohm contributed to this report. 

Related Headlines

Comments are not available on this story.