Kids in puffy winter coats ran around the basketball court in Portland’s Kennedy Park, where Raoul Mapendo Tshiyuka used to play when he was younger.

Raoul Mapendo Tshiyuka Courtesy of Tshiyuka family

Tshiyuka’s friends and family gathered nearby. Balloons danced in the wind along the fence and music played from a standing speaker.

Monday would have been Tshiyuka’s 31st birthday, but he was killed nine days before, on March 2, shot on St. John Street across from the Union Plaza Shopping Center, near a bar where he liked to play in pool tournaments.

Police arrested 36-year-old Abdirahman Mahmoud that same day and charged him with murder in Tshiyuka’s death. They have not released any details from the investigation.

Tshiyuka’s loved ones didn’t gather to discuss the case Monday evening – they shared memories of his childhood and spoke of his support as an adult for Portland’s Black community.

They said he was the glue that held his large, sprawling family together between Maine and Texas, where his mother and younger siblings moved when he was a young adult. He was often the loud and uplifting voice that quelled people’s anxieties and insecurities. He wanted his loved ones to take risks and pursue their dreams. He wanted better for the young people in his life.


“We lost a part of us, and we’re going to be burying so many memories from our childhood,” said his friend Rita Achiro.

Rita Achiro, right, leads the crowd, alongside Winey Ogweta, left, as they sing happy birthday to Raoul Mapendo Tshiyuka during a vigil at Kennedy Park on Monday, which would have been his 31st birthday. Tshiyuka was shot and killed on March 2. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer


Tshiyuka was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but his earliest memories were in Atlanta, where his family first lived when they moved to the United States.

His mother, Arianne Fazila, said they came to Maine because they wanted to be somewhere more calm.

In Portland, Tshiyuka, the oldest, watched over his younger siblings. He spent time at the Root Cellar, an after-school program, and the public library, where he and other teens could get on Facebook and MySpace.

Achiro remembered seeing him there regularly.


“We all grew up in Kennedy Park and had a hard life,” she said. “And because of that, he always wanted something different for the youth. He loved this neighborhood.”

His girlfriend, Winey Ogweta, met him when they were about 8 years old. She said she didn’t care for him much back then because he always had to be the smartest kid in the class. But he was always there, and they grew closer as they moved on to middle school, where they were among a handful of Black students.

“Years would pass by, and in some way our lives were always connected to each other,” Ogweta said at the vigil.

Raoul Tshiyuka’s loved ones clean up after a memorial to honor him at Kennedy Park on Monday. Tshiyuka was shot on March 2 on St. John Street and later died at Maine Medical Center. He grew up in the Kennedy Park neighborhood. Friends and family said he could often be found on the basketball court as a child. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

They guided each other through loss: Tshiyuka was there for her when Ogweta’s older brother died her freshman year, then Tshiyuka lost his uncle, who was only a little older than him and shared many of his friends. 

When they broke up in high school, Ogweta said, it was because they had to find themselves, but they never completely lost touch. Tshiyuka called her on her birthdays and was close to her younger brother.

During the summer of 2020, Ogweta got COVID-19. She was so sick that she spent a lonely month in the ICU, unable to have visitors and still in severe pain when she was released. And there was Tshiyuka, one of the first people who reached out when she got home. He wanted her to braid his hair like she had done when they were in school.


She was the one who asked him out a few months later, leaving him what she admits was a cheesy “check yes or no” note, to which he responded almost immediately.

He made her feel beautiful – and when she was struggling to envision her life after her illness, she said, he reminded her of her dreams: Go to beauty school. Open a business.

She had to work nights when she enrolled at Empire, a beauty school on Marginal Way that closed last fall. Tshiyuka made her breakfast in between work and class and reminded her to sleep.

After she graduated, he researched what it would take to open a business and he helped her find a space in South Portland. Before he died, he drew on his experience working contracting jobs to help put down a new floor and paint the walls at her salon.

He also helped her mount the sign outside: “Winnie’s Beauty Salon.”

“This was his plan for me,” she said Tuesday, sitting in a salon chair, boxes of hairdressing equipment nearby still needing to be unpacked. She and Tshiyuka were planning to open the salon later this month, she said.


The salon will be one of the only businesses in South Portland owned by a Black female, she said, and one of only a few in southern Maine with expertise in Black people’s hair.

“We’ve never seen people who look like us venture off and do this,” she said.

Klein Mulongo, speaks about his older brother, Raoul Tshiyuka, as he keeps his arm around their mother, Arianne Fazila, during a vigil at Kennedy Park on Monday. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer


When Tshiyuka’s mother and younger siblings moved to Texas, he stayed behind. Ogweta said he didn’t want to leave his grandmother, who wanted to stay close to relatives buried in Maine.

Tshiyuka visited his grandmother almost every day. They shared dinner. He would buy her flowers. When he could, he joined her at the end of the day as she smoked a couple of cigarettes outside.

He would take an Uber across town just so he could have a cigarette with his grandmother,” Ogweta said.  


Tshiyuka also kept in close touch with his mom. She said they would talk for hours. Her son loved to laugh and to chat and share stories.

He visited his family in Texas regularly and helped bring his grandmother there for a couple of weeks every summer. He and Ogweta last visited them in November, and he was planning to go to Georgia with his mom for his 31st birthday to see where he grew up. Ogweta said he was hoping for a “full circle” moment.

Instead, family came to Portland to bury their son, brother and friend.

On Monday evening, as people shared memories of him, his grandmother sat quietly.

His mother thanked the dozens of people who showed up to honor him and she asked that, wherever he is now, he give them all strength. She told those gathered that she had given him the middle name Mapendo because it is Swahili for love.

Winey Ogweta holds a balloon for her late-boyfriend Raoul Mapendo Tshiyuka. “Mapendo” translates to “love” in Swahili. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Ogweta told the crowd that she and Tshiyuka were just starting to discuss marriage and having a family of their own.


Tshiyuka loved spending time with friends, competing in pool. But he also loved a good night in with Mayo, the dog he’d had for 13 years.

Mayo used to watch over Tshiyuka while he slept, to make sure he was still breathing when he got too still, Ogweta said. Now, she’s helping take care of the dog, the closest thing she has to Tshiyuka.

“I don’t know if he understands that Raoul is gone,” she said. She plans to bring Mayo to the wake on Friday.

Toward the end of the vigil, as the sky got darker and the temperature began to drop, Ogweta’s sister Lilly Angelo grabbed the microphone.

Lilly Angelo speaks about the prevalence of gun violence in Portland at a gathering to honor her sister’s boyfriend, Raoul Tshiyuka. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

“I am hurt,” Angelo said, and not just by Tshiyuka’s death but by all of the loss to gun violence within her community and by the fear she carries for the safety of her teenage son.

“Where should we take these young boys? Where should we take them if there’s guns flying everywhere? I am hurt,” she said. “Please boys, I’m appealing to all of you, put that gun away. Love your brother. … I wish there would have been a better way to end the story.”

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