Ethiopians Unite to Mourn Death on U Street

The block of Ali Mohammed’s death also served as the site of his vigil Tuesday evening.

Friends, family and members of the Ethiopian and D.C. community came together to remember the life of the 27-year-old man who died after an altercation outside a club early Friday morning.

Attendees held up neon green and bright yellow signs that read “The Truth Shall Prevail,” “We Want Justice” and “Any Death Should Not Go Unpunished.” Some lit white and pink candles, and another person hoisted the green, yellow and red Ethiopian flag. A few women were clad in all black attire, a way to show mourning after a death in Ethiopian culture.

While the debate continues over whether Ali’s death was due to a homicide or pre-existing conditions, his family and friends mourn his loss.

“My son was not a violent man and did not deserve to die as he did,” said his father, Ahmed Mohammed Galtchu, holding back tears.

Galtchu said he and his family hope for justice for his son and punishment for those responsible for his death. He thanked the crowd for coming out to show their support.

Ali died at about 3:15 a.m. Friday at Howard University Hospital. Earlier, at 2:30 a.m., he was on Ninth Street Northwest trying to get into the DC9 bar and club. To his disappointment, Mohammed was turned away from the party and that’s when the altercation began.

He allegedly threw a brick through the windows of the venue in frustration. Soon after, five men who worked at the club, including the owner, chased him down the 2000 block of Ninth Street. According to statements by D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier, these men allegedly “savagely beat” Mohammed to death.

The employees were arrested and initially charged with second-degree murder. That charge was later reduced to aggravated assault, a move that upset Mohammed’s family.

Ali’s cousin Nunu Wako, who spoke during the vigil, said she had never seen him raise a hand on others and the beating of “5 to 1 is utterly barbaric, is savage.”

Ward 1 Council member Jim Graham was present and expressed support for the Mohammed family.

“We share the loss today of Ali,” Graham said. “We will have justice in this case.”

Graham emphasized his close relationship with the Ethiopian community in D.C. and particularly the unofficial “Little Ethiopia” neighborhood of Ninth Street.

He announced that there is “evidence sufficient to justify charge of murder” in the case.

“Igziabeher yimesgen, amen, amen,” Graham said, meaning “Thank God in Amharic,” a few of the terms he picked up when he visited Ethiopia in 2004 and in his dealings with his Ethiopian constituents.

He urged the crowd to please let the situation run its course and allow the authorities to handle the case.

A woman from D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty’s African Affairs office read a letter from the mayor, who shared his condolences for the Mohammed family.

E. Gail Anderson Holness, Advisory Neighborhood Commission 1B chairperson, spoke briefly and encouraged the family to allow the system to take its course and deliver justice.

According to his cousin, Mohammed was born on Oct. 13, 1983, in Ethiopia and came to the United States in 1997. A Silver Spring, Md., resident, he attended Calvin Coolidge Senior High School. Wako described him as a kind, loving, caring and peaceful individual.

As the official program for the vigil concluded, the crowd began chanting “Charge the killers; we want justice” and “We demand justice.”

DC9 was closed down for 96 hours and its liquor license suspended indefinitely, according to signs posted outside the venue.

The DC9 owner and employees are scheduled to appear in D.C. Superior Court on Nov. 8.