A Portland police officer arrested at a nightclub in Worcester, Massachusetts, last weekend had pushed patrons and grabbed the chief of security before being told to leave two or three dozen times by staff or police, court records say.

But during her arrest, Zahra M. Abu told a passer-by that she was the victim of racial profiling, according to a police report filed in support of five misdemeanor charges, including assault and battery, resisting arrest, trespassing, disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace.

The 24-year-old Portland resident is on paid administrative leave from her job pending a review of the incident. She has not publicly responded to the allegations. Members of Abu’s family declined to comment this week when contacted by phone at their home.

Abu’s lawyer, Michael H. Erlich of Worcester, did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

Abu is scheduled to be arraigned Jan. 25 in Central District Court in Worcester.

On Saturday night, she was at the Palladium Nightclub on Main Street attending a concert by Ja Rule and Ashanti. Worcester police Officer Christopher Grilli filed a brief report in court Wednesday about the alleged encounters that led to Abu’s arrest.


Grilli wrote that Abu is accused of “physically assaulting several customers by aggressively pushing through a crowd.” Then, after the Palladium’s head of security was alerted to her behavior, Abu allegedly grabbed him by the front of his shirt and said, “Who the (expletive) are you,” the police report says.

After multiple warnings and being informed by Palladium staff and Worcester police officers that she was no longer welcome at the establishment, Grilli told Abu she was under arrest. “Ms. Abu refused to leave and even pushed her friend off of her who was pleading with her to leave,” Grilli wrote.

When told she was under arrest, Abu tensed her body and tried to pull away “in an effort to evade arrest,” Grilli wrote. Abu is alleged to have “continued to squirm” and try “to slip one of her wrists out of a handcuff” as Grilli waited for a patrol wagon to take her away.

“During the entirety of my interaction with her, Ms. Abu swore at police, questioned our training and time in service in our profession and refused to cease her profanity-laced comments toward staff,” Grilli wrote.

Abu made the statement about racial profiling while she was being arrested outside the club, the report says.

“While outside, Ms. Abu was in the front of the Palladium and as a patron, unknown to her, walked by, she pulled her body towards the patron and said, ‘They’re racial profiling, I see you there girl,’ ” Grilli wrote. “The patron clearly looked inconvenienced by Ms. Abu’s behavior as she went inside.”


Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck said Tuesday that “this issue will be dealt with as a personnel matter from this point forward, so I will have no further comment.”

Abu gained widespread media and community attention two years ago when she became the first member of Maine’s Somali community to be sworn in as a police officer.

She was born to Somali parents in a Kenyan refugee camp and has lived in Portland since she was 2 years old. She graduated from Deering High School in Portland and pursued criminal justice and women-and-gender studies at the University of Southern Maine.

If convicted, Abu faces a maximum penalty of up to 2½ years in a county jail on each of the assault and battery and the resisting arrest charges. The other charges include less-severe maximum penalties.

Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at:


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