Portland police said Wednesday that they have begun a separate investigation into reports of gunshots in East Bayside early Tuesday morning, distinguishing it from a crowd that police say launched fireworks at officers one block away.

About 300 people gathered in East Bayside on Monday night, illegally setting off fireworks until the early hours of the morning, according to police. One person, a 17-year-old male, was arrested for disorderly conduct and criminal use of explosives.

Just after midnight, police said, officers responded to a shooting that took place about a block from where the crowd was gathered. Ten shots were fired, police said, although no injuries were reported. No arrests were made, but one person was detained for questioning.

Police responded to several phone calls reporting fireworks in the neighborhood at 9 p.m. Monday, sending multiple officers to break up the gathering and investigate the use of illegal fireworks. Portland is one of many Maine communities that prohibit fireworks. Officers arrived to find a large, loose group stretching from the Kennedy Park basketball courts next to Fox Street to the corner of Anderson and Oxford streets.

While there were other fireworks being set off around the city around Independence Day, Portland Police spokesperson David Singer described the group in East Bayside as “animated and agitated” and said there had been no other such concentrated gathering.

John Mukwa lives in East Bayside near where the crowd was concentrated. While he heard the commotion from his house, he only saw what had happened in a video posted on the social media platform Snapchat the next day. He did not have access to the video Wednesday, as the videos disappear after 24 hours.

“I saw a video of three cop cars with people all around,” said Mukwa, 23. “People were jumping, provoking the cops.” 

Police maintained a presence at the perimeter of the crowd from 9 p.m. until people dispersed after 1 a.m., according to Singer. While officers encouraged people to leave, they did not utilize riot gear or other measures to break up the crowd, he said.

In response to their presence, according to Singer, police had projectile fireworks such as Roman candles and mortar fireworks set off in their direction.

That same night, police responded to a report of a man with a gun on Greenleaf Street, one block over from the crowd. Officers responding to the call witnessed someone at a distance fire about 10 gunshots, the department said. One person was detained for questioning and released and no victims were found, Singer said Wednesday.

Singer said it is unclear whether the gun was aimed at someone or something, but the incident was caught on body camera footage that is part of the investigation. The department declined to provide further evidence because of the ongoing investigation.

The police encouraged any witnesses with videos or pictures from that area to come forward.

Karen Thorne, a longtime resident of East Bayside, said she didn’t know there had been such a big commotion until she read about it the next day on the web.

“I wouldn’t have realized there had been gunshots,” said Thorne, 69. “There’s always fireworks and other loud noises (in the neighborhood) on the Fourth of July … it’s par for the course.”

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