Family and friends of Ali Mohammed, 27, say they want justice from city officials regarding his slaying and the reason no one has been prosecuted for his death.
Mohammed was allegedly stomped and beaten to death by a restaurant owner and four security guards on Oct. 15, after witnesses saw him throw a brick into the window of the DC9 Club, from which, police say, he was denied entry. A call was made to police around 2:30 a.m. for destruction of property.
Although the club, located on the 1900 block of Ninth St., NW, has been temporarily closed, many residents believe the delay to prosecute may be due to pressure from city officials. While the club’s co-owner and four employees were initially charged with murder, those charges were downgraded to assault then dropped—with the option of re-filing. The Alcohol, Beverage Regulations Administration meets on Dec. 1 to decide whether the club would be reopened.
D.C. Councilman Jim Graham (D- Ward 1) has spoken highly of the White-owned restaurant and backs its reopening. But many residents think differently.
“This is clearly vigilante justice. All good people, regardless of race, should stand up and demand true justice for this victim,” said Lawrence Guyot, 71, a longtime civil rights activist and community leader.
According to bystanders, the events leading to the death portray the club owner in a different light than that depicted by the councilman. Eyewitness Pauline Brown, 58, said she and four other people were sitting on the side of an abandoned building when they saw Mohammed being chased by five men. “He stopped right here in front of the pole,” said Brown pointing to the area. Brown stood about 10 feet away and watched with her friends. She said the first one to catch up to Mohammed was the “big guy.”
“He looked like and acted like a detective so we watched but kept our distance and mouths shut. We didn’t want to get arrested,” she remembered. Brown said many police officers work undercover at night to protect the businesses. “They looked like police officers. We just didn’t know.”
Brown added Mohammed was knocked to the pavement and then all five men kicked and beat Mohammed all over his body but he never fought back. “He kept shielding himself and then all of a sudden he collapsed,” Brown said.
While Mohammed lay still, the alleged beating continued by DC9 co-owner, William Joseph Spieler and four male employees, Arthur Zaloga, Evan Preller, Darryl Carter and Reginald Phillips, Brown said. With Mohammed lying motionless on the sidewalk, the employees walked away from the scene of the crime. When the police arrived, the owner remained to give his account of what happened. Brown and two of the witnesses left the scene of the crime.
The police officer, who found Mohammed lying on the ground, unconscious and not breathing, in the 2000 block of Ninth St., NW, rendered CPR until medics arrived. The medics also administered CPR and took the victim to Howard University Hospital just a few blocks from the scene. At 3:15 a.m., the victim was pronounced dead.
Mohammed came to America from Ethiopia in 1997. He attended Paul Public Charter School and graduated from Coolidge Senior High School in northwest Washington.
“I have never known Ali to quarrel with anyone,” said his father, Ahmed Mohammed, 63, a service industry employee. “It’s like him to shield himself. But I don’t think he believed he would be killed.”
Six weeks later, the DC Medical Examiner has not released a determination of the cause of death. “We follow the guidelines by the National Association of Medical Examiners which states that 90 percent of cases should be closed between 60 to 90 days,” said Beverly Fields, chief of staff, DC Medical Examiner. “We are waiting for the results.”
Several years ago, Graham publicly boasted his campaign to close down all businesses that “drew violent activity,” which turned out to be mostly Black establishments such as Smarta Sports Club, Joe’s Steak and Eggs, Kili’s, Club U and Between Friends. Some residents believe delay and lack of prosecution may sway opinion in favor of the White-owned establishment.
Guyot remembered calling what he characterizes as “Graham’s campaign against Black establishments, ‘a political cancer that should be stopped’” and accuses the councilman of double standards. “We should treat White brutality unleashed on Blacks no differently than Black-on-Black crime,” said Guyot. “How can we justify restoring the license for DC9?”
Remembering what she saw like a scene from a movie, Brown said, shaking her head in disgust, “It was awful. When we heard the young man died, we kept saying they can’t get away with this. Somebody has to pay.”