Cops credit Somali community with helping find suspects

Minneapolis, 12 January 2010 (Somalilandpress) – Minneapolis police said Sunday that cooperation from the Somali community helped lead to the arrests of two juveniles they believe are responsible for Wednesday’s triple slaying.

The second arrest came late Saturday when a 17-year-old boy from Minneapolis turned himself in to investigators with family members by his side, Capt. Amelia Huffman said at a news conference that included Police Chief Tim Dolan and Mayor R.T. Rybak.

Earlier Saturday, a 17-year-old boy, also of Minneapolis, was taken into custody in connection with the shooting deaths of three East African men at Seward Market & Halal Meat in Minneapolis’ Seward neighborhood.

“I think that folks — broadly speaking — in Minneapolis were outraged by this incident and that was certainly true in the Seward neighborhood and the among the Somali families who live there,” Huffman said. “We had great communication, and we had tips that were flooding in from all parts of the community. And, indeed, we were able to track down the first suspect with the aid of people in the community.”

The family of the second suspect brought the boy in to the Third Precinct police station, Huffman said, “because they want to do the responsible thing and participate in the criminal justice system so that he can be answerable for the allegations that he was involved in this crime. And I think that is incredibly significant.”

Dolan said investigators believe they have solved the shootings and that “we anticipate

the suspects will be charged soon.”

“We are confident that we have identified all of the people responsible for the incident,” Dolan said, adding as the investigation progresses, “further charges may be forthcoming.”

Because the suspects are juveniles, their names will not be released until charges are filed, Dolan said.

Police said last week the shooters likely were Somali immigrants, but would not say as much Sunday.

Police were also tight-lipped about a possible motive. They originally characterized the crime as a robbery that turned violent, but Dolan later said that might not have been what happened.

“We will be discussing a motive of the crime after charging has been complete,” Dolan said, “but we do feel that this is not part of a larger pattern of incidents.”

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Police have said that two men walked into the store at 25th Avenue South and East Franklin Avenue about 7:40 p.m. Wednesday and shot and killed Mohamed Abdi Warfa, 30, of Savage; Osman Jama Elmi, 28, of St. Paul; and Anwar Salah Mohammed, 31, of Brooklyn Park.

Warfa and Elmi were from Somalia, while Mohammed was from the Oromia region of Ethiopia, friends and family said.

Mohammed’s older brother, Fethi Mohammed, said the arrests are a “good start, but we need more. The family has to know how it happened and what happened to him. A robbery? Whatever it is, we want to know.”

Fethi Mohammed said he saw his brother’s body at Friday’s funeral and that he appeared to have suffered a gunshot wound to the back of his head.

“Maybe he tried to run, but couldn’t get away,” he said. “We want to know.”

Seward Market is a Somali-owned store located in a neighborhood with a large Somali population. Although closed since the crime, it attracted several neighborhood residents Sunday afternoon.

Peering through the front door, Fuad Abdulle said he grew up with Anwar Salah Mohammed in Ethiopia and stopped by for the first time since the shooting “just to see and feel. We have been praying for him.”

Dolan confirmed the crime was caught on video, but said, “I doubt it will be shown publicly for a very long time. It is very graphic, and will be held for prosecution and appeals.”

While the city has made progress in preventing youth violence, Rybak said, Saturday’s arrests marked a “significant setback.”

“This tragic incident underscores that we also have some challenges and we’re going to stay focused on that,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Seward Neighborhood Group, along with police and city officials, will host a community meeting at 7 tonight at Seward Towers West, a high-rise apartment complex across the street from the store.

“The community is trying to be proactive,” said Minneapolis City Council member Cam Gordon, who represents Ward 2, where the market is located. “I also think the fact the two people who have been arrested are so young just brings about a lot more anxiety … and just makes the tragedy seem even greater.”


Nick Ferraro can be reached at 651-228-2173.
Source: Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.

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