by Michelle Basch, wtop.com: WASINGTON – At least 100 people crowded around the temporarily closed DC9 nightclub in Northwest D.C. Tuesday night to remember a man who died after a confrontation at the club last week.
D.C. Police have said 27-year-old Ali Mohammed threw a rock or brick through the window of the club on 9th Street near U Street early Friday after being denied entry at closing time.
Police chief Cathy Lanier initially said after the club’s window was smashed, four employees and a co-owner of the club chased Mohammed down the block and “savagely beat” him. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.
Five men were arrested for second degree murder, but on Saturday the charges were reduced to aggravated assault.
Mohammed is an American born in Ethiopia, and in addition to family and friends of Mohammed, members of the Ethiopian community came out in large numbers to the vigil.
Some carried signs, others lit candles, and many cried as they listened to emotional speeches.
“My son was not a violent man, and he did not deserve to die as he did,” says Ahmed Galtchu, Mohammed’s father.
“We have faith in the American system of justice and we know that the truth will come very soon. We cannot and will not rest until we know what happened to Ali.”
Galtchu and his wife have hired a lawyer.
Mohammed’s younger brother Kalid also says he does not want to rush to judgment.
“Ali, he was a humble person, not violent at all,” he says. “He was laid back, chill, a relaxed person, a funny dude, but I miss him a lot.”
But another relative – Mohammed’s cousin – spoke out in anger.
“Five to one is utterly barbaric and savage,” says Nunu Wako. “Ali had respect for the people he came across. He was the type of person who went out of his way to speak to strangers to see if they are having a good day.”
“He not only loved who he was, he extended his love to his community,” Wako told the gathering as tears streamed down her face.
At times, the vigil was interrupted by chants of “charge the killers” and “we want justice.”
Councimember Jim Graham drew cheers when he announced Assistant Police Chief Peter Newsham told him and members of Mohammed’s family at a meeting Monday that police do have evidence to justify a charge of murder.
“Please, let this run it’s course for a brief period of time so we can truly find justice,” Graham asked the crowd.
Graham also says Police Chief Cathy Lanier has agreed to meet with family members at their request.
A spokeswoman for Mayor Adrian Fenty also appeared at the vigil to read a letter of condolences from the Mayor.
The entrance to DC9 is now filled with candles and messages to and about Mohammed, including one that appeared to be from employees of DC9. The club is closed for now, and it’s liquor license has been revoked.
A preliminary hearing for the five men charged in the case is scheduled for November 8.