PORTLAND – A volley of gunshots in downtown Portland ignited a citywide search for those involved Sunday evening.

Portland police Lt. James Sweatt said witnesses reported hearing multiple gunshots around 4:45 p.m. in the area of Pleasant and High streets – in a residential neighborhood behind the Holiday Inn by the Bay on Spring Street.

The intersection is just a block from Congress Street and the Portland Museum of Art.

Although no one appeared to have been injured, Sweatt said the shooter or shooters could face charges of reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon, or the more serious charge of attempted murder if the suspects are caught and it can be determined they were shooting at another person.

He said more than two vehicles were involved in the incident.

Police roped off Pleasant Street for more than an hour while investigators took photographs and collected evidence.

Bill and Diane Clark, a couple from Beverly, Mass., said they were walking down High Street toward a restaurant when they heard four or five loud bangs before a car came racing out of Pleasant Street with a man inside.

The man appeared to be pulling his arm back from a window that had been rolled down. The Clarks, who said the bangs sounded like firecrackers, later realized the man had fired a gun.

”It was a bit unnerving,” Bill Clark said. ”Because over dinner we didn’t know if it had been a drive-by shooting or just a prank.”

The Clarks recovered from the shock of witnessing a random shooting, spending the rest of their night at the Cumberland County Civic Center listening to the Christian rock band Casting Crowns.

Meanwhile, just up Spring Street at the bar known as the Flask, patrons were talking about what happened.

”Someone came in and said a (parked) car had been hit,” said Jody Dustion, who was serving as a disc jockey at the pub. ”I stayed at my station.”

A patron, Janice Hendricks of Lyman, rushed out to the Spring Street parking lot across from the Flask where she had parked her car. It had escaped damage.

Hendricks said she saw one of the cars involved back over a curb and a street sign before speeding off in the direction of Mercy Hospital at Spring and State streets. The car’s sudden takeoff caused a large pile of mud to land on another parked car.

”I just came out to make sure my car was OK and it was,” Hendricks said.

Deb Diluiso of Scarborough said one of the vehicles involved in the shooting had its back window smashed out.

”I was surprised at how fast the police got here,” she said.

The search for the suspects was expected to continue throughout the night.

Sweatt said authorities are looking for a late-model, four-door, silver-colored vehicle.

Sweatt encouraged anyone who witnessed the shooting or who has information about the incident to call Portland police at 874-8575 or 874-8533. 

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: [email protected]