Witnesses balk, suspect in Minneapolis killing walks

  • Article by: LORA PABST , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 3, 2009 - 6:08 AM

Ramadan Abdi Shiekh Osman

A teenager accused of fatally shooting a 20-year-old Augsburg College student outside a busy Minneapolis community center last September has been released from jail after murder charges against him were dismissed Monday.

Ramadan Abdi Shiekh Osman, 17, of Minneapolis, had been charged with second-degree murder and certified to stand trial as an adult in connection with the killing of Ahmed Nur Ali. He was released from the Hennepin County jail Monday afternoon.

The case against him was dropped after several witnesses recanted statements they had given to police and at least one witness left the state, said Minneapolis police spokesman Sgt. Jesse Garcia.

"This guy is basically getting away with murder," Garcia said.

The shooting of Ali, who was volunteering at the Brian Coyle Community Center when he was shot in the chest at about 5 p.m. Sept. 22, prompted members of the Somali community to urge witnesses to come forward. During community meetings after Ali's death, many people expressed anger at police for not identifying a suspect sooner and at witnesses who wouldn't cooperate.

"This is their community," Garcia said of the immigrant population that lives in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood where the shooting occurred. "It's up to them to cooperate and help bring the killer of the victim to justice."

Imam Hassan Mohamud, the leader at the Ali family's mosque, said those same frustrations have arisen again for Ali's family members since the charges were dismissed.

"The family is very upset and disappointed about the result of this case," he said.

He said family members want to know if police have used all their resources to reach witnesses and get them to testify.

But Mohamud said he also spoke with a witness who said he wouldn't come forward unless there was a guarantee of safety for him and his family, citing other cases where suspects remain on the loose.

In 2008, at least seven Somali men under 30 were killed in the Twin Cities. Many of those cases have not been solved.

"There is a fear of revenge because they do not trust the system," Mohamud said. "If they give critical information that could help the case, that might backfire and the suspect could be released and harm members of their family."

Garcia said that the case will remain open with Osman as the suspect and that he could be recharged.

"We need people to come forward and do the right thing," he said. "Now is the time for them to step up as a community and come out against this."

During services at the mosque this week, Mohamud said, he reminded members of Islamic teachings that say someone who is hiding critical information about a murder is "committing a major sin."

"I tell them from a civic and religious responsibility, they need to come forward and help the system get as much information to help solve this case," he said.

Lora Pabst • 612-673-4628

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