It was close to 3 a.m. Saturday when Nimo Abdi heard a blast from outside.

She and her 4-year-old son were sleeping on a mattress on the floor because the bed frame that Abdi ordered hadn’t arrived. She had just moved her family into a larger apartment from a smaller one in Riverton Park, a public housing complex that is home to hundreds of low-income families, including many that have fled wars, violence and political turmoil in their home countries.

Nimo Abdi looks out the window of a room she was sleeping with her 4-year-old son when a bullet tore through their home at Riverton Park, a low-income public housing complex in Portland, late Friday night and early Saturday morning.  Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Abdi and her family came to Maine from Somalia seeking safety.

Her first thought when the noise woke her was that her husband must be knocking on the door downstairs, home from a shift that normally ends at 4:30 a.m. But as she got up to look out her window, Abdi noticed something in the wall under the sill.

A bullet hole.

Abdi would later learn two more bullets struck the exterior of her mother’s apartment next door. Although the bullets did not penetrate those walls, Abdi said her 14-year-old brother was sleeping in a bedroom inside.


The bullets came from one of two separate shootings at Riverton Park that night. Officers had been on Abdi’s block around 8 p.m. Friday, when residents first called police to report several gunshots. One witness told police he saw a car leaving after the gunfire.

After the second round of gunfire woke Abdi at 3 a.m. Saturday, Portland police said they got a call from police in Westbrook, where a woman said she had fled after she was shot while sitting in a car parked on Abdi’s block. On Saturday, police said the woman – who has not been identified – was receiving treatment at Maine Medical Center for non-life-threatening injuries.

Police responded to two shootings at Riverton Park, a low-income public housing complex in Portland, late Friday night and early Saturday morning. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Maj. Robert Martin of the Portland police said Tuesday that the department is actively investigating the shootings. He declined to provide further information on the identity of the woman who was injured, or to say whether any arrests had been made or charges filed.

Cheryl Sessions, executive director of the Portland Housing Authority, which oversees the 141 units at Riverton Park, said Tuesday that the shootings were perpetrated by nonresidents.

Sessions said she wants people to understand that Riverton Park “isn’t really a good place for people to come in and do their crime,” given its network of security cameras.

“And we share that information with the police,” she said.


Riverton’s security system was upgraded in the last few months, Sessions said, to give cameras better image resolution, night vision and license plate readers. The housing authority also is planning for a project to add speed bumps and raised terraces to slow traffic coming through the 19-acre park.


Abdi says she and her family members were traumatized by the shootings.

Nimo Abdi, 32, left, and her mother Nafisa Ibrahim, 58, live in separate buildings next to each other, and both apartments were hit with bullets in the incident at Riverton Park, a low-income public housing complex in Portland, late Friday night and early Saturday morning. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

“I’m not feeling well,” Abdi said Tuesday. She said she was having headaches and found it hard to sleep. Her mother, Nafisa Ibrahim, said her sugar levels are up and she’s struggling to bring them back down.

Days after the bullet broke through the wall of the room where her 4-year-old grandson slept, Ibrahim can’t stop thinking about small choices her daughter made in the hours leading up to the shooting, unaware they would be what kept her safe.

For instance, Abdi had originally placed the mattress against the wall where her phone was charging but had decided to move it earlier that day to the other side of the room. The bullet that came through the wall ended up nicking the screen of Abdi’s phone, which now has a small crack at the center. Shots fired toward Ibrahim’s own apartment happened to hit a part of the building that has walls the bullets didn’t pierce.


On Tuesday afternoon, after the bedroom bullet hole had been patched, Ibrahim watched a video on her phone from an interview Abdi did Saturday with a local TV news station. She shook her head as the reporter in the video said: “Every parent’s nightmare became a reality.”

“It’s scary,” Ibrahim, 58, said repeatedly to a neighbor as they sat in Ibrahim’s living room. She spoke in Somali with wide, flaring hand gestures and tears in her eyes. A neighbor who asked not to be identified offered brief translations of Ibrahim’s words.

Ibrahim said she arrived to the United States in 2009. She has been in Riverton Park for about a year, where she is fortunate to live with her teenage son, right near her daughter and grandchildren.

“We came here for safety,” Ibrahim said through her neighbor. “But we have problems here now, too.”

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