PORTLAND, Maine — More than three years after the unsolved shooting outside Sangillo’s Tavern that led to the notorious bar’s forced closure, the victim has stepped forward to accuse a man now awaiting trial for a 2015 murder.
Police still have not made an arrest in the 2014 shooting, which they have called “complicated.”
But the victim says what happened that night was simple.
Late on Jan. 27, Nasir Hirad was having a drink at the cramped downtown bar when a drunken stranger — known to Sangillo’s regulars only as “Gang Banger” or “Gang Bang” — came in and picked a fight, Hirad says. The pair argued past 1 a.m., when Hirad left, took a few steps out into the night and was shot in the back with .45-caliber handgun, according to court documents.
The gunman, according to a lawsuit Hirad filed last year, was Gang Deng Majok, who is in jail awaiting a May trial for allegedly fatally shooting a teenager in an Old Port recording studio in 2015.
The civil suit filed in state court identifies for the first time the victim and his alleged attacker. It draws a connection between two of Portland’s most prominent violent crimes in recent years and has the potential to shed new light on a criminal case that remains unsolved.
That case, and other court documents, also names Majok as a suspect in two of the violent incidents that led to Sangillo’s closing.
Hirad, whose Facebook page shows photos of him in a wheelchair, said in the suit that his wounds have left him permanently paralyzed and unable to work. He is suing Sangillo’s and Majok for punitive damages and relief for lost wages and earning ability, as well as medical expenses and “loss of enjoyment of life.”
The suit accuses Sangillo’s of negligence in serving liquor to a visibly drunk and belligerent Majok, whom it alleges later shot Hirad in the back just after he’d walked outside. It was filed on Jan. 27, 2016, nearly a year after the state pulled the bar’s liquor license — partially because of the unsolved shooting.
The case is on hold because Sangillo’s is now suing its insurer, United States Liability Insurance Company, for refusing to pay for a lawyer to defend it from Hirad’s lawsuit. Sangillo’s claim was moved into federal court on Feb. 2.
In a court filing, the bar denied the allegations. Sangillo’s lawyer, Harry Center, declined to comment on them.
The case is still open, according to Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Ackerman. She didn’t know why no one has been charged, she said.
In a court filing, Majok denied that he shot Hirad. His lawyers did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
In July 2015, Majok also pleaded not guilty to shooting 19-year-old Treyjon Arsenault at the Da Block recording studio on Fore Street. He’s currently in Cumberland County Jail.
On the night Hirad was shot in 2014, Portland police arrested Majok on Middle Street and charged him with assault, refusing to submit to arrest and violating bail conditions, according to news stories from the time.
Police didn’t say at the time whether the arrest was related to the shooting at Sangillo’s, but a police report written by Detective Karl Rybeck named Majok as one of several people “detained due to this incident.”
That incident, according Hirad, started late on Monday night when Majok walked into the narrow bar room and ordered liquor. Majok was out on bail at the time and, despite being visibly drunk, bar staff served him without asking for ID, the suit claims.
The two men had never met before, but Hirad said that Majok, then 29, harassed him and other patrons. Majok “was agitated and carrying a concealed firearm,” according to the court documents.
Majok insulted the younger man’s appearance, mocked his native Somalia, and eventually threatened to hurt him if Hirad didn’t hand over cash, the complaint states.
The pair continued to argue until Hirad couldn’t take it anymore and told Majok to leave him alone. Around 1:20 a.m. Hirad walked out of the bar and Majok followed, shooting him in the back before fleeing, the suit claims.
Inside the bar, Sangillo’s employees heard the gunshots but later told police they’d thought they were firecrackers, according to the suit. Hirad was left bleeding in the street until he was found by police and rushed to the emergency room at Maine Medical Center.
After being arrested that night, Majok was reportedly given a suspended sentence and fined $300 for unrelated charges.
Lawyer Stephen Schwartz is representing Hirad — who has pleaded guilty to a slew of minor crimes while intermittently homeless — and declined to discuss what evidence he had of the shooting besides his client’s testimony. They are requesting a jury trial, but not asking the state to press criminal charges.
Sangillo’s closed in early 2015 after 62 years in business and was promptly replaced with another bar, Tomaso’s Canteen, which markets itself as a “working class” pub.
The Portland City Council voted to revoke the bar’s liquor license soon after the 2014 shooting, which police said was merely one of more than 20 incidents at the tavern over a year. The decision was eventually upheld by the state, despite a community initiative to save the storied bar and a lawyer for the owners arguing that only seven of the incidents were serious enough to warrant a police report.
At least one more of those was eventually linked to Majok.
When Det. Rybeck went to interview Hirad at the hospital, he was actually trying to find a man who’d punched Sangillo’s bartender Nishell Ayers over the summer. For months, Rybeck had been unable to identify the suspect, who he knew only as “Gang Bang.”
After speak with Hirad, the detective said he went to show Ayers an array of pictures, including Majok’s, and she immediately picked him out.
“‘That’s the guy that punched me in the face,’” she reportedly told him.
Majok was charged with assault and is awaiting a hearing in that case too.