Seattle Police Department announced Tuesday it is investigating the fatal fall of a 16-year-old Somali student, after a social media outcry questioning how he died.
The family of Hamza Warsame criticized the lack of communication and sensitivity from police immediately after his fall.
“It is sad to say we do not know what happened and there has been a lack of communication from the police department,” said Mumin Dimbil, who says he is Warsame’s cousin.
Police say Hamza Warsame fell six stories from a rooftop deck Saturday afternoon in the 300 block of Summit Ave. in Capitol Hill. Warsame later died at Harborview Medical Center.
Warsame’s family and friends say he was a full-time Running Start student at Seattle Central College, and say they believe he was at the apartment complex for a study group.
“He was a sweet boy,” said his sister, Ikram Warsame. “He talked about our father like he was his hero.”
Social media posts using the hashtag #Justice4Hamza criticizing the lack of public attention on Warsame’s death before Tuesday have questioned whether he was assaulted and pushed off the rooftop deck. But the Seattle Police Department said the incident was under investigation and no conclusion has yet been reached about how Warsame’s fell off deck .
“The department is aware of community concerns about the case and Assistant Chief Robert Merner is personally supervising the matter,” police spokesman Jonah Spangenthal-Lee wrote on the department’s blog. “As with all death investigations, we ask the community to be patient and avoid jumping to conclusions while detectives conduct their work.”
Dimbil also said the family was avoiding speculation on why Warsame fell from the roof while awaiting the police investigation.
“I want this case to be more on the facts, and not about what someone believes,” Dimbil said. He asked people “to refrain until we find the truth.”
However, Dimbil criticized the Seattle police department’s response to the family — starting with the lack of an assigned police officer immediately following the fall.
When the family made an inquiry on Monday, they were instructed to collect the police report at the precinct, Dimbil said after a prayer service for Warsame at the Abubakr Islamic Center in Tukwila.
“It was an insult to an injury,” he said. “I felt like they were treating it as a car accident.”
“I felt like there was no one here for us,” Dimbil said.
Quratulain Khan, the chairwoman of Americans for Refugees and Immigrants, which is organizing a protest at Seattle Central College on Thursday, questioned whether police treated Warsame’s death the same as they would have for a white teenager.
“I don’t believe this is how a death investigation should go,” she said. Khan said she is calling for an Department of Justice inquiry to make sure the case was handled properly.
The King County Medical Examiner, which performed the autopsy on Warsame, told the Capitol Hill Seattle Blog that its investigation was ongoing. Seattle Police are asking anyone who may have additional information to contact investigators at 206-233-5000.
Warasme’s sister also said over Twitter that a GoFundMe campaign that an “uncle” supposedly set up for Warsame’s funeral expenses is fake and the family doesn’t know the person who set it up.
Editor’s note: this story was corrected to reflect the federal department that Khan hopes will investigate the handling of Warsame’s death.