Community Mourns Somali Muslim Teen's Death in Kansas City Hate Crime
Devastated family, friends and schoolmates of a 15-year-old boy killed in a horrific hit-and-run car crash that is being investigated as a hate crime gathered for his funeral on Saturday.
A large community of Somali Muslims in Kansas City, Missouri, is still in shock after the boy died on Thursday evening, when a man appeared to deliberately drive his vehicle into him as he was leaving a local mosque.
Abdisamad Sheikh-Hussein, 15, almost had his legs severed when a man whom locals said had been harassing the community with anti-Islamic taunts and violent threats apparently swerved his car and ploughed into the boy.
Ahmed Aden, 34, a local Somali of Christian faith, appeared in court the following day, charged with first-degree murder and other crimes.
Multi-faith messages of support were sent for Abdisamad’s family and the stunned community as the boy’s loved ones prepared to say their last goodbyes in a service on Saturday at the Islamic Society of Greater Kansas City.
A friend who was with Abdisamad was also hurt in the collision.
“It became pretty clear that this was not an accidental crash, there is a considerable amount of evidence that leads us to believe it was intentional,” said Sergeant Bill Mahoney of the Kansas City Police Department.
The boy’s father, Adullahi Mohamud, was an assistant to the imam and a teacher and the mosque. News reports said he and his wife Hawa have three other children. Mohamud was enveloped in tearful embraces at the mosque in a sombre prayer services on Friday.
His son had just led prayers early on Thursday evening and was about to get into a Toyota car parked outside to leave and go to the gym when a black SUV hurtled into him. Witnesses said it knocked him into the air before he landed and was run over by the vehicle.
The driver tried to flee in the vehicle but it was damaged so he ran away and was captured by police officers, according to local news reports.
The boy’s family and other people involved with the Somali Centre told local TV station WADF the suspect had been threatening them for months, even waving a gun at some attendees and telling them he was going to kill them for being Muslim.
Abdisamad was known as Adam to many of his schoolmates at Staley High School in the North Kansas City school district, where he had a reputation as a highly intelligent, studious and friendly pupil.
Aden was charged in Jackson County court on Friday with first-degree murder, armed criminal action, leaving the scene of an accident and unlawful use of a weapon. He was not granted bail.
After charges were announced, Jackson County prosecutor Jean Peters Bakers spoke of Abdisamad as a “completely innocent young man that had much to offer all of us and as of today he is no longer with us”.
She said she would seek “very firmly” to hold the individual who killed the boy responsible for his actions and had brought the highest possible charge against the defendant after a crime that was “horrific, awful” and affected the whole city.
Reverend Welton Gaddy, the president of the national Interfaith Alliance, sent a letter to the Islamic Society in Kansas City expressing his concern about the killing.
“I write to you today to promise that no matter how pronounced the voices and actions of those who seek to isolate and denigrate American Muslims, the interfaith community will stand stronger in defence of religious freedom and equal rights,” his letter stated.
He spoke of “the purveyors of hate” who sought to “terrorise minority communities in America” with vitriol.
Rabbi Arthur Nemitoff offered sympathy from his synagogue on the outskirts of Kansas City and said he was grateful the FBI were investigating the killing as a hate crime. “An attack on one religious community is an attack on all of us,” he said.
Abdisamad Sheikh-Hussein regularly led evening prayers, fellow community members told the Kansas City Star. In his service on Thursday he called for peace.
“He asked for mercy for humankind and asked for humans to follow the righteous path,” said Ali Abdi, the assistant director of the centre.
Aden, a Kansas City truck driver, told police after his arrest he had been searching for men who had threatened him nine days earlier. He said he planned to kill those men if he found them, according to court records.
Aden told police he intentionally struck Abdisamad, but he had mistaken the teen for one of the men who had threatened him.
Abdisamad’s uncle, Abdinajib Dirir, told the Kansas City Star the family, who had emigrated from war-torn Somalia, was devastated.
“There are no words to describe,” he said. “This is a community that fled a violent situation. Now we’re facing violence in the United States … We are American like everyone else. And this is a tragedy for us.”