City Desk

DC9 Murder Case Officially Closed, No Criminal Charges Coming

Five DC9 nightclub employees once arrested for the murder of Ali Ahmed Mohammed won't be facing any charges at all.

Though the Metropolitan Police Department cuffed them on Oct. 15, saying they beat Mohammed to death after he allegedly chucked a brick through their club's window, the U.S. Attorney's office dropped all charges against Bill Spieler, Darryl Carter, Reginald Phillips, Evan Preller, and Arthur Zaloga in November.

Now, the U.S. Attorney's Office has announced that it's closed the investigation into the men for "insufficient evidence to pursue criminal charges related to the death of Ali Ahmed Mohammed." The office found that despite assertions made by D.C. police that Mohammed was beaten, there were no signs that he had been. While this means criminal charges won't be forthcoming, it could clear the way for a wrongful death suit Mohammed's family has been contemplating.

UPDATE: In a new MPD statement, police have completely abandoned their initial accusations: "This case presented a unique set of circumstances whereby the initial reports from witnesses indicated that Mr. Mohammed was beaten to death. The Metropolitan Police Department made arrests based on those initial reports and all of the information that was available at the time."

The statement goes on to say that although charging documents cited witnesses who said Mohammed was pummeled, those witnesses turned out to be unreliable: "The original accounts by witnesses was not discovered to be mistaken or inaccurate until a more comprehensive review of the medical and forensic evidence was done by detectives and prosecutors."

"It is always tragic when a young person’s life ends prematurely," the statement concludes."The Metropolitan Police Department would again like to express our deepest sympathy to the family of Ali Ahmed Mohammed."

Update: It definitely sounds as if there's a civil suit coming. Acting as spokesperson for Mohamed's family, Andrew Laurence says the family doesn't see this as the end: "We're disappointed at the decision the U.S. Attorney's office made today. The family is going to get together with the community and not give up. We'll continue to pursue justice, if not in criminal court, in a civil action."

Announcement from the U.S. Attorney's Office below.

"The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia announced today that an extensive law enforcement investigation has determined that there is insufficient evidence to pursue criminal charges related to the death of Ali Ahmed Mohammed, who died October 15, 2010 after an incident outside the DC9 nightclub, located in the 1900 block of Ninth Street NW.  The investigation now is closed.

The decision was made following a wide-reaching investigation spanning more than six months and a careful analysis of the evidence by experienced homicide detectives and prosecutors.

Working with detectives from the Metropolitan Police Department, prosecutors interviewed many witnesses and potential witnesses, including employees and customers at nearby clubs and restaurants, as well as bystanders and others who were in the area when the incident took place.  They also interviewed medical professionals who encountered or treated Mr. Mohammed, as well as all of the first responders on the scene.  They repeatedly visited the scene and analyzed surveillance images taken from various vantage points, both official images and those made by private establishments.  They reviewed all physical evidence, documentary evidence, crime scene photographs, and radio transmissions.

The investigative team worked closely with the District of Columbia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. In addition, the team retained a nationally renowned forensic pathologist to assist in the investigation.

Early witness accounts suggested that Mr. Mohammed, who was 27, might have been beaten to death. The investigation revealed that those initial reports were inaccurate and unsupported by medical and physical evidence, or by other eyewitness accounts.

The evidence gathered in the investigation reveals that the incident began when Mr. Mohammed threw two bricks through the window of DC9.  An owner and employees from the club chased, seized, and restrained Mr. Mohammed until police arrived.  The evidence did not support a finding that the owner and employees beat Mr. Mohammed to death.

On January 6, 2011, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner issued its autopsy report.  The manner of death was listed forensically as homicide, which means that others were involved, though not necessarily criminally responsible, in Mr. Mohammed’s death.

The autopsy findings confirmed that there were no significant physical injuries to Mr. Mohammed, and certainly none consistent with being beaten. The only injuries observed were consistent with being held on the ground.  The cause of death was listed as excited delirium, associated with heart defects, alcohol intoxication and physical exertion with restraint.  In light of all the evidence, the medical examiner observed no physical injuries that reasonably could be associated with criminal homicide charges.  The independent forensic pathologist agreed with this determination.

Officials from the U.S. Attorney’s Office met earlier today with Mr. Mohammed’s family to advise them of this decision and again expressed their deepest condolences for the tragic loss of Mr. Mohammed.

Photo courtesy of Ali Ahmed Mohammed's family

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  • Southeast Ken

    This is an interesting outcome. Does this mean, the Ethiopian community will start to riot?

  • Sally

    If I were MPD, I'd be checking to see if my checking account has enough money to pay off the wrongly accused after they sue for false arrest and defamation.

  • Jes’ sayin’

    The Ethiopian Community has handled this tragedy with remarkable restraint and grace.

    This was a terrible tragedy for all involved, but the response of the Ethiopian-Americans has been one of maturity and dignity, while they stood up for their rights.

    The readers of this blog and the citizens of DC can learn a few things from them.

  • James in NE

    Jes' Sayin' - like falsely accusing 5 men of killing someone?

  • DCAV8R

    HA! The Truth has come out! Although it is tragic this man died, it is good to know the staff and owner have been vindicated. I'm glad MPD and all the others who accused the owner and workers of being savages now have egg on their face. Seems to me, the city will settle this for a pretty penny. I think the Ethiopian community owes the club owner and staff members a HUGE APOLOGY. Jes' sayin'......

  • DCAV8R

    And if their family sues for wrongful death, they need to go after the bar that got him liquored up in the first place. That is the establishment that caused this whole incident. If the family sues DC9, I would turn around and sue the family for twice the amount for the damage and emotional distress it caused the workers. Find out who boozed him up, and go after them, not DC9.

  • Jes’ sayin’

    @ James in NE:

    That was Chief Lanier who did that. Unfortunately. And there was the matter of all that blood on the street...which actually belonged to some guy from New York State who threw yet another brick through the window.

    With the Chief saying he was beaten to death and a street full of blood, a lot of people jumped to the logical conclusion that he WAS beaten to death. He wasn't. But I don't blame the Ethiopian community for believing what the Chief said.

  • Mistr Knucklz

    This has nothing to do with the Ethiopian community. It was one guy who was too high and did something really stupid, and unfortunately, it cost him his life. Sad story for his family and loved ones, but it doesn't say anything about Ethiopians or any other community.

  • DCAV8R

    Knucklz-- where have you been? The Ethiopian community held a protest in front of the club. The family still says they are going to go after the club and staff for wrongful death. They owe the club an apology and should be going after the establishment that got him drunk. The evidence has cleared them, case closed.

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  • tony

    This case really demonstrates how unfair the criminal justice systems really is. Here is a case where a drunken young man throws a brick through the window of a well-respected bar. The man is then chased down by the bar's security team and owner and is beaten, stomped, and otherwise restrained. The young man dies as a result of this encounter. The bar security team and owner would be cleared by the U.S. Attorney Office of any wrongdoing.

    I just wonder what would be the position of the U.S. Attorney Office if the matter was reversed and the young man who died was white or jewish and the bar security team and owner was black. Would the white or jewish community respect the same findings by the U.S. Attorney Office? Or, would they be in an uproar and then use their clout to seek further action?

    In many respects, this case reminds me of what a supreme court justice once said. Chief Supreme Court Justice Jay in his sick defense of the "separate but equal doctrine" opined from the bench of the highest court in the land that, " A BLACK MAN HAS NO RIGHTS THAT A WHITE MAN IS BOUND TO RESPECT."

    Sadly, too many White people, as some of the comments in this blogs demonstrates, still agree with this racist view.

  • Jo-Ann Fiscina

    This young man committed an aggressive criminal act,while intoxicated. Sadly, he paid for it with his life but the tragedy did not end there. Employees were nearby and could have been severely injured when Mr. Mohammed deliberately threw bricks through DC9's plate glass window. When Mr. Mohammed ran from the scene, the staff called the police and chased him down,restraining him until police arrived. It appears that he did not die until he was in police custody. Did the officers on the scene in collusion with Chief Lanier,attempt to deflect attention from the death of a prisoner in custody by unjustly accusing innocent people of murder? Chief Lanier issued her inflammatory statement within a few hours of the incident, setting in motion a series of events that never would have happened had she spoken to the medical examiner and investigators first before villifying citizens on the word of "unreliable" witnesses. Where is the MPD's apology to DC9's owners,employees, and their families who have had to pay a huge price for Chief Lanier's rush to judgment. She did a great disservice to everyone involved by misrepresenting what happened that night as a result of a criminal act by Mr. Mohammed. She criminalized the victims and hasn't had the decency to apologize. Shame on the MPD.

  • Cooper

    Tony -
    the racial make up of the accussed bar staff was one Hispanic Male - Arthur, two Black males - Reggie and Carter, and two White Males- Bill and Evan. All of which weigh under 150 pounds and they did not beat Ali up as stated in the medical examiners report.

    From the begining this had nothing to do with race, race only was introduced into the equation when the media tried to make it a race issue, which for the most part it failed to do.

    Do people even bother reading any more?

    I guess only selectively