Pictures from Wednesday’s #justice4hamza march (Images: Alex Garland for CHS)
The police investigation into the death of a 16-year-old Seattle Central College student continues as concerns about the cause of the incident have mounted on social media.
Hamza Warsame died on Saturday following a 60-foot fall from a building near Summit and Thomas, according to Seattle Fire. Seattle Central identified Warsame Monday in a message to students. In a statement released Tuesday, Seattle Police said its investigation was ongoing and did not specify if detectives suspected foul play.
The department is aware of community concerns about the case and Assistant Chief Robert Merner is personally supervising the matter. As with all death investigations, we ask the community to be patient and avoid jumping to conclusions while detectives conduct their work.
A representative from the King County Medical Examiner’s Office told CHS its investigation into the death was on hold while police continue to work on the case. The medical examiner’s report may also be delayed as investigators gather details from Harborview Medical Center, the representative said. UPDATE 12/9/2015 3:10 PM: The medical examiner said Wednesday afternoon that the announcement of the cause of death in the Warsame case remains “pending investigation.”
Four days after her brother’s death, Ikram Warsame told CHS she has become increasingly frustrated with the lack of information on the investigation. “I want the police to bring justice to my brother, to find out what happened to him,” she said on Wednesday while on her way to a vigil for Hamza at Seattle Central.
The 18-year-old UW Bothel student said she believes its unlikely her brother’s death was accidental and she’s certain it was a not a suicide. “This was murder, this was not a suicide,” she said. “He was content with his life, he had high hopes for the future.”
Ikram said her and Hamza’s parents immigrated from Somalia to Seattle in 1994, where Hamza and Ikram were born and raised. After obtaining his associates degree, Ikram said Hamza wanted to attend MIT in Boston to study computer science. “He was interested in technology, he was a game fanatic,” she said.
CHS has received many messages about Warsame’s death and concerns about the investigation. A group called Americans for Refugees & Immigrants has planned a gathering on Thursday to call attention to Warsame’s death. The creator the of Facebook event page wrote Warsame is “a casualty of the xenophobic, Islamophobic hate speech.” A call for a prayer circle at Seattle Central on Wednesday has also made its way through social media.
Others have taken to Twitter and Facebook using #justice4hamza to call out a perceived lack of concern over the teen’s death, which some have speculated was a homicide. Friends and family of Warsame said that a memorial service was planned for Tuesday in Tukwila.
Warsame was a Rainier Beach High School student starting his first quarter at Seattle Central under the college’s Running Start program, a Seattle Central spokesperson told CHS. Running Start allows high school juniors and seniors to take college–level classes for high school and college credit.
Police are asking anyone who may have additional information to contact investigators at (206) 233-5000.
UPDATE 12/9/2015 10:00 AM: SPD has released a Somali language version of its post on the investigation.
UPDATE 12/9/2015 3:15 PM: Dozens of Seattle Central students, members of the Somali community, and their supporters held a prayer vigil for Warsame inside the Capitol Hill college Wednesday afternoon. Following the prayer, Warsame’s cousin Mohamed Abdi addressed the gathering inside Seattle Central. “This could happen to any of us, so we’re going to make sure his story is heard,” he said.
The group then marched with a police escort to the E Precinct to call for more information on the investigation into the teenager’s death.
Protestors carried signs that read “Justice4Hamza” and “Muslim Lives Matter” while chanting “Hamza.” One speaker said she believed Warsame’s death should be investigated as a homicide and hate crime.
As the group chanted outside the 12th and E Pine precinct, Captain Paul McDonagh came out to speak with Ikram. McDonagh said he didn’t have any additional information to share on the investigation, but detectives would be meeting with the family privately Wednesday night.
“I appreciate you coming and being respectful,” McDonagh said.
Seattle Central’s Somali Student Association planned the vigil and march, along with the Black Student Union and the Muslim Student Association. In an email to students, Interim President Sheila Edwards Lange urged students who didn’t feel comfortable speaking with police to speak with faculty or staff. “This incident has brought to light very real concerns among our community of black and Muslim students who are worried about their safety,” she said in the email. “Amid reports of an increasing number of racist and discriminatory acts locally and nationally, the fear and sorrow our students feel is real.”
Students rally in front of E Precinct, calling for quicker investigation into death of Hamza Warsame pic.twitter.com/LZHAFEOJjb
— Bryan Cohen (@bchasesc) December 9, 2015
— Alex Garland (@AGarlandPhoto) December 9, 2015