OK, so it's understandable if you seem perplexed why an article with this title appears on this site, because the blog tends to highlight the numerous flaws within law enforcement agencies and the criminal justice system. But it's only fair to point out some of the successes of police and prosecutors in Seattle – especially when prudence and judiciousness were involved.
Three days after the San Bernardino shooting in California in December, a Somali Muslim teen was found dead in Seattle after falling from a sixth-floor balcony. Shortly after it happened, rumors began to circulate that 16-year old Hamza Warsame had been beaten and/or pushed off the balcony by the 21-year old classmate who owned the apartment from which the boy fell.
As a result, protesters carrying Black Lives Matter and anti-police signs marched in the streets decrying Islamophobia and racism and urging the police to prosecute the incident as a hate crime. City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant wrote on her blog “…we will not stand for any threats or hate violence toward our Muslim brothers and sisters.” Even Sheila Edwards Lange - the interim president of Seattle Central College, where Warsame and his schoolmate attended classes – cited “…very real concerns among our community of black and Muslim students who are worried about their safety.”
But to its credit, the Seattle Police Department did not overreact and arrest or indict the 21-year old on criminal charges. Instead, on the day after the incident, they stated that no indications of foul play were present. And a month later, they released a report ruling Warsame's death as an accident.
This week, SPD released a more detailed report about the events leading up to the teens' death. The report states that Warsame and his classmate went up to the 21-year old's apartment to work on a homelessness project. The teen reportedly stated that he had never consumed marijuana and wanted to try it, so the two smoked the legally-purchased weed.
But the older student said that when he went to the kitchen, Warsame became “frantic,” began babbling about his religion, and then rushed out onto the balcony after saying he “needed air.” The boy apparently tried to jump to the roof of a neighboring building, but fell to his death before the man could stop him. This account was supported by testimony from people in neighboring apartments, and an autopsy revealed that Warsame's system contained high levels of THC.
Although the teen's death was a tragedy, Seattle police and King County prosecutors should be commended for not succumbing to angry protesters or acting on unsubstantiated rumors – but instead gathering facts and completing their investigation thoroughly and accurately.