Family members have been searching for 21-year-old Samuel Mugisha for a week. From left, his cousin Heritier Itangishaka, and his uncles Gapapa Nsengumuremyi, Claude Rwaganje and Jean-Paul Ruhosha. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

A week of searching and hoping has taken a toll on the family of a missing Portland man.

Samuel Mugisha, 21, was last seen at his apartment at 8 a.m. on Nov. 4. His family, the Congolese immigrant community and the Portland police have been searching for him since then to no avail.

Samuel Mugisha, 21, has been missing since he was last seen at his North Deering apartment eight days ago. Family photo

“We are trying to stay calm by hoping we will see him soon and putting our focus towards the search,” said Mugisha’s uncle Jean-Paul Ruhosha, who flew to Maine from his home in Washington, D.C., on Monday to help his family. “We’re hoping he’s going to be fine.”

Mugisha’s family said he suffers from a mental illness that sometimes renders him non-verbal, and causes him to forget where he is and faint. His family believes his disappearance might be connected to his illness.

The week before Mugisha went missing he had an episode of severe mental challenges and spent a week at Spring Harbor Hospital, a nonprofit psychiatric hospital in Westbrook, his family said.

Following his hospitalization, Mugisha was staying with an uncle in Westbrook. Without informing his uncle he was leaving, he went back to the Portland apartment he shares with his cousin, Heritier (Fred) Itangishaka, on Auburn Street in North Deering on Nov. 3.


When Itangishaka first realized his cousin was gone around 8:30 a.m. on Nov. 4, he immediately started calling family and community members to see if they had any knowledge of his whereabouts. No one did. They started looking for Mugisha near his apartment and in Westbrook, where he used to live and still has family members.

With the help of a local Congolese community that Mugisha is part of, the family has been doing everything it can to find him.

Heritier Itangishaka of Portland, who also goes by the name “Fred,” was the last one to see his cousin, 21-year-old Samuel Mugisha, who has been missing for a week. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

The community of around 200 has come together to try and find Mugisha, his family said, meeting at their church to discuss how to help, posting missing person flyers throughout Portland and Westbrook, and combing the area between his home in Portland and his uncle’s home in Westbrook.

Despite the intense effort, the family has no leads on Mugisha’s whereabouts.

The Portland police said they are focusing their search near Mugisha’s Auburn Street home and have looked for him on nearby railroad tracks and footpaths and in wooded areas and a river close to Mugisha’s home. The police said they have been searching with officers on foot, ATVs, K9 teams and aerial drones.

“We have no idea where he went after leaving his home and are searching these areas because of their close proximity to his home or in areas he might have walked to,” said Detective Lt. Nick Goodman.


Family members said they would like to get more direct communication from the police. The police department said they have communicated daily with family members but are not sharing information with non-family community members.

Mugisha’s uncle, Claude Rwaganje, said the last week has been terrible. “It’s hard to describe,” he said. “It’s tough for me and for the community.”

A flyer for 21-year-old Samuel Mugisha, who has been missing for a week, is mixed among holiday lights at Riverbank Park. (Staff photo by Derek Davis/Staff Photographer) Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Mugisha came to the United States in 2014 from Nairobi, Kenya, and is part of the tight-knit Congolese Banyamulenge community in the Portland area. He attended Westbrook High School and played on the soccer team.

Mugisha’s family said he works as a caregiver at Safe Residential Care and Granite Bay Care and that he’s almost always either working or at church. When he’s not, he spends his time at the gym, reading and praying.

Mugisha has never before gone missing, his family said.

Anyone with information about Mugisha’s whereabouts is asked to call the Portland police at 207-874-8479 or the Westbrook police at 207-854-0644.

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