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Death of teen in fall from Capitol Hill building ruled an accident

Thursday January 7, 2016
By Jennifer Sullivan 

The death of 16-year-old Hamza Warsame in a fall from a Capitol Hill building last month has been ruled an accident.

Medical examiners have determined the death of 16-year-old Hamza Warsame in a fall from a Capitol Hill building last month was an accident.

The King County Medical Examiner’s Office announced Wednesday that the teen died from “blunt-force injury” caused by an “unintentional fall.” The announcement was made on the medical examiner’s recorded line.

The promising Rainier Beach High School student fell from the balcony of a six-story apartment building on the afternoon of Dec. 5.

Police had met with Warsame’s family Tuesday night to discuss the investigation.

“They gave us a lot of information,” said the teen’s sister, Ikram Warsame, an 18-year-old University of Washington student. “There are some things we wish could have been explained more. We’re hoping in time we’ll come to understand.”

The family didn’t want to say more until they have a meeting Wednesday night.

Warsame’s death, which occurred just three days after the San Bernardino, Calif., terrorist shootings, touched off widespread speculation that the Muslim teen may have been the victim of a hate crime.

Seattle police initially released little information on the death of the Somali-American teen as detectives investigated. Early on, police said there were no indications Warsame’s death was the result of foul play, but that did little to quell mounting rumors of a hate crime.

Assistant Police Chief Robert Merner personally supervised the investigation.

A story of unknown origin that swept through the city’s Somali and Black Muslim communities attributed Warsame’s death to anger aimed at the Muslim community. At a time when anti-Muslim sentiment was growing after the Paris and San Bernardino mass killings, the rumors of some sort of revenge killing not only took on a life of their own but seemed plausible to a community fearful of misdirected rage.

“He’s a Black Muslim, so it’s like a double whammy,” family friend, Ahlaam Ibraahim, 17, recently told the Los Angeles Times. “People in our community don’t feel safe … then Hamza’s death happened.”

The Washington state chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations urged police to conduct a “thorough and transparent” investigation, a sentiment echoed by several dozen Seattle Central students who marched from the college to the police department’s East Precinct to seek answers four days after the death.

However, other local Muslims said they have noticed people going out of their way to show support after the teen’s death.

Seattle police, in a Dec. 8 post in its online blotter, urged patience and to avoid coming to conclusions “while detectives conduct their work.” The post was translated into Somali.

Seeking to assuage some of the concern, the Seattle City Council last month adopted a resolution in support of Seattle’s Muslim community while voicing opposition to “the rise in hateful rhetoric and violence targeting Muslims.”

“We stand united in opposition to racism and bigotry that targets any faith community,” Mayor Ed Murray said.



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