The shooting Monday of a Naples man stemmed from a violent shakedown attempt by two men attempting to recover a small drug debt, police said.

They broke into the victim’s house, kidnapped him, stuffed him naked into the trunk of their car and then fired shots at him as he fled after they released him in a wooded area.

Mahdi B. Ali, 23, of Boston, and Ajoung M. Malual, 22, of Westbrook, are charged with kidnapping, aggravated assault, two counts of reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon, terrorizing and burglary. Ali faces an additional count of illegal possession of a firearm. All the charges are felonies, meaning both men must be indicted by a grand jury before the cases against them may proceed.

Clockwise from top left: Ajoung Malual, Mahdi Ali, Noh Okubazghi and Samson Samson. Photos courtesy Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office

Both men made their initial appearance Wednesday in Cumberland County Unified Criminal Court and were ordered held at Cumberland County Jail on $250,000 cash bail. Their next court dates are in early 2020. Two other people were arrested at the same time as Ali and Malual, but they did not appear to be connected to the shooting.

In reports and an affidavit filed in court by Cumberland County Sheriff’s detective Bradley Rogers, police describe how the victim, Nathaniel Croteau, 39, was confronted by the men early on the morning of Sept. 23 in his house on Rockwood Way in Naples.

Croteau told police he was asleep on his couch when Malual and Ali entered his home and that Croteau recognized Malual, who sold Croteau crack cocaine, but knew him previously as “T.” The other man, later identified by Croteau through a photo lineup as Ali, fired two shots from a handgun while inside, leaving bullet holes in the kitchen wall and living room ceiling. The men then forced Croteau outside and sat him in the front passenger seat of a waiting car.

According to police, Malual drove and Ali sat in the back seat behind Croteau. Malual was also drinking from a bottle of Hennessey cognac, Croteau told police, and periodically hit Croteau in the forehead with the bottle as Ali poked the muzzle of the handgun at the back of Croteau’s head.

Croteau said he owed the men about $200 for drugs, but Ali and Malual only asked for $85, according to the affidavit. Ali and Malual then demanded Croteau take them to the home of another man, Stephen Gilson, whom they said owed Ali and Malual about $600.

In a later police interview, Malual told detectives that Croteau could have gotten them money from a bank, but they decided against it because of security cameras. Instead, Malual and Ali went to Gilson’s home to rob him. Before they approached Gilson’s home on Tenney Hill Road, Malual and Ali put Croteau in the trunk of the car.

Croteau told officers he was hesitant to show the men exactly where Gilson lived because he shared the home with his mother and a small child. Malual told police that they encountered Gilson’s children inside the home but could not find Gilson, so they returned to the car, only to find Croteau had set off the car alarm trying to get away.

Ali and Malual then made Croteau take off his clothes and forced him back into the trunk before driving to a nearby dirt road, where they told Croteau to start running. As Croteau ran, he told police, he heard several gunshots and felt pain in his right leg.

Malual tried to deflect responsibility by telling detectives that he shot up into the air, but police had already found evidence of seven shell casings and had seen bullet strikes. Malual then admitted to shooting into the dirt as Croteau fled.

The two men returned in the vehicle to a home in Standish, where they picked up two other people, Noh Okubazghi, 20, of Boston, and Samson Samson, 22, of Minneapolis, and drove away. By that time, a neighbor in Casco had reported hearing the sound of gunfire, and police were dispatched to the area to investigate.

When officers arrived on Tenney Hill Road in Casco, Croteau emerged from the woods, naked, panicked and bloody, and gave a physical description of his assailants and the car they were driving and said they were armed. Doctors later located four bullet fragments in Croteau’s right leg and surgically removed one of the metal shards, which was collected by police as evidence.

After the description of the car went out to police in the area, officers in Windham spotted a vehicle matching it and stopped the white Nissan at a Big Apple gas station on Route 302. Inside the car, police recovered a .40-caliber Ruger handgun that matched Croteau’s description of the weapon.

Okubazghi and Samson both told police they were not involved in the kidnapping and shooting. Okubazghi said he had fallen asleep after smoking crack cocaine at a home in Bridgton, and Samson told officers that he, too, fell asleep after smoking marijuana at the same house.

When Ali and Malual came back, Malual said some “hot (expletive) went down” and they all needed to leave. When the car was pulled over by police, Okubazghi was driving, and he later told officers that, though his Massachusetts license was suspended, he was driving was because he was the most sober of the four.

During the search of the vehicle, Okubazghi was found with several grams of crack cocaine and admitted during an interview that he was a crack cocaine user and also sold the drug to the owner of the home where he had fallen asleep that night. Police found a bundle of suspected crack cocaine in Okubazghi’s pant leg, and he was charged with unlawful possession and unlawful trafficking. Samson was also charged with two counts of unlawful trafficking. Okubazghi and Samson are each being held at Cumberland County Jail on $150,000 cash bail.

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