DC9 Lawyer: It was a Citizen’s Arrest
In closing arguments, lawyer Andrew Kline said that's what happened in the vicinity of DC9 on October 15, when Ali Ahmed Mohammed wound up dead. When DC9 co-owner Bill Spieler and employees Darryl Carter, Reginald Phillips, Evan Preller, and Arthur Zaloga chased Mohammed down the street, after a perhaps inebriated—and definitely angry—Mohammed hurled two bricks through one of the establishment's windows (Mohammed wanted to be let into the club), Kline said, they were within their rights. "They were effectuating a citizen's arrest."
That argument seemed not to win over the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) board. The board decided DC9 was an "imminent danger" and that the summary suspension of the venue's liquor license would continue for the next 30 days. The board will convene a status hearing at the end of that period in order to decide what to do next.
The hearing that led up to that decision began with Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) investigator Erin Mathieson, the only witness called by city lawyer Louise Phillips. Mathieson cleaved closely to an investigative report she earlier submitted to the board. Mathieson interviewed MPD investigators following the death of Mohammed. They told her witnesses saw the suspects chase down Mohammed and beat him. But there was one important difference in the way Mathieson presented her findings from the stand. The report told that Zaloga had reached Mohammed first and tackled him, while police charging documents placed Preller in that role. Mathieson demurred to cops and corrected her earlier statement in her testimony.
Next on the stand was Joe Englert. Attempting to keep his license, Englert testified that those accused of pummeling Mohammed to death were "gentle people." He called the events leading up to Mohammed's death "extraordinary," and though the co-owner wasn't there on the night in question, he argued that the men had only detained Mohammed. Despite believing the DC9 men are innocent, Englert promised that, if his place were ever allowed to open again, there would be improvements. Surveillance cameras have already been installed in the club, and he's planning to retrain his staff. Then Englert mentioned something that seems like bad news for anyone hoping to see the club open again. He would be helping to pay for the training, as "at this point, there's no money left at DC9."
At one point, ABC board member Mital Gandhi let Englert know he wasn't impressed: "I'm not satisfied right now." Gandhi later added, "There's been a death here. This isn't someone getting a black eye."
The next witness wasn't actually there. A seven-minute interview by Channel 7 with DC9 bartender Damon Dixon was played, because Dixon was unavailable, as he's testifying in front of the grand jury today in connection to the DC9 criminal case. In the video, Dixon contended he'd seen the chase and capture of Mohammed and that the five men didn't try to hurt him: "One was just kind of pressing him down and the other was restraining his hand."
Other witnesses for the defense mostly spoke to Englert's credibility as a club owner and what would happen at DC9 going forward. There was also an important audio recording played.
The argument that the men facing aggravated assault charges in the wake of Mohammed's death were making a citizen's arrest will probably show up in the criminal trial. According to D.C. code, a citizen's arrest is legal. If that proves to get the accused off, those seeking justice for Mohammed will likely see the law as a loophole through which Mohammed's attackers escaped proper punishment.