A 20-year-old man scheduled to go on trial Monday for fatally shooting a teenager on a Fridley street walked out of jail a free man after prosecutors dropped the murder charge.
Zakariya H. Ahmed, of Robbinsdale, had been charged with second-degree murder in connection with the death of 17-year-old Mohannad Abdul Hafiz Abukhdeir on July 17 outside the teen’s home.
Ahmed was arrested that week and remained in jail for more than six months until the Anoka County attorney’s office filed the dismissal “without prejudice,” meaning prosecutors retain the right to charge him again.
“Of course he was shocked” upon release, said defense attorney Elliott Nickell, who was at the jail with his client’s family and friends when Ahmed was set free. “He has spent almost seven months in jail for something he didn’t do. ... We were all there and excited he was getting out.”
Nickell described Ahmed as more than not guilty: “I fully believe that [he] is innocent. ... He didn’t do this. [The prosecution] came to the right decision.”
Paul Young, criminal division chief for the county attorney’s office, said Tuesday that the dismissal “is not necessarily a situation where the original evidence is no longer sufficient to charge, but rather the evolution of ongoing investigation and the facts, or lack thereof, learned later.”
Neither side in this case on Tuesday would be more specific about how the investigation evolved.
Young said the dead teen’s loved ones were briefed about the dismissal, “but we will not comment beyond their ongoing grieving regarding the loss of their son.”
A drug deal was reportedly behind Abukhdeir’s death. His cellphone was found at the scene in the 1300 block of Meadowmoor Drive NE. Authorities said he had used the phone to communicate with Ahmed about a marijuana sale late that night.
A neighbor heard two quick gunshots and spotted a silver or gray Toyota RAV4 speeding away with its headlights off, the criminal complaint said.
Law enforcement authorities identified one number on the victim’s phone as belonging to Ahmed and learned that Ahmed had a previous contact with police involving a silver RAV4.
The next day, Ahmed contacted Minneapolis police to report that his vehicle and cellphone had been stolen, a couple of days apart. Minneapolis fire crews responded to a call about a silver RAV4 on fire, and a witness spotted someone running from the scene.
Ahmed told law enforcement that his phone had been stolen on a Sunday afternoon at a Minneapolis park. He added that his vehicle had been stolen a day later, but the complaint said the theft was reportedly hours after Abukhdeir’s body was found.
The stolen phone was traced to two cell towers near where Abukhdeir’s body was found. Records also showed that on that Monday, Ahmed’s phone was tracked to a cell tower near his workplace, the complaint continued.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482