NY Times - SEATTLE — The Seattle Police Department said Wednesday it was investigating the death of a 16-year-old Somali-American boy who died Saturday after a fall from a balcony near Seattle Central College, where he had been taking classes.
The death of the boy, Hamza Warsame, has prompted outrage among members of the Muslim community here, amid assertions — it is not clear from whom — that he was beaten and pushed to his death by a white man. This account was spread online through a hashtag on Twitter and Facebook, #Justice4Hamza.
On Wednesday, scores of protesters, including members of the boy’s family, who are Muslim, marched to the local police precinct shouting for justice and calling the death a possible hate crime.
Details are sketchy. No cause of death or autopsy report has been released, and Hamza’s sister, Ikram Warsame, 18, said in an interview that she did not know what happened and was not ruling out the possibility of an accident. But she was adamant that he did not take his own life.
“He was happy and content with his life — he was not suicidal, and he was not depressed,” Ms. Warsame said. She said the family’s main concern was to have the case treated fairly and seriously by the police.
“I want my brother’s investigation to be put on a priority.”
A police official close to the investigation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case is open, said a preliminary examination of Hamza’s body showed no injuries that were “consistent with having been physically beaten” and added that “there wasn’t any evidence suggesting foul play.”
But many of the protesters who marched from the college to the precinct, some of them crying, said they feared that the police did not want to find an uncomfortable truth that would lead to protests or unrest.
“God will find the truth!” shouted Fabhi Hirsi, who said she was a neighbor of the Warsame family.
The interim president of Seattle Central College, Sheila Edwards Lange, said in emailed message to students that she shared their concerns about public safety at a time when racial and religious tensions are running high nationwide.
“This incident has brought to light very real concerns among our community of black and Muslim students who are worried about their safety,” Ms. Lange said. “Amid reports of an increasing number of racist and discriminatory acts locally and nationally, the fear and sorrow our students feel is real.”
Hamza was one of five children of Somali immigrants, his sister said. Their father is a taxi driver, their mother a homemaker. Although Hamza was still enrolled in a public high school in Seattle, he was completing his first quarter of college under a state program that accelerates students who test into college-level work, said a spokesman for Seattle Central College, David Sandler.