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Seattle Muslims Demand Answers In Somali-American Teen's Death

People rally on Capitol Hill in December in memory of Hamza Warsame, a 16-year-old Somali American who died in a fall from an apartment building.
Alex Garland
People rally on Capitol Hill on Thursday in memory of Hamza Warsame, a 16-year-old Somali American who died in a fall from an apartment building.

The sister of a Somali-American teen killed in a fall on Seattle’s Capitol Hill is asking the city’s Muslim community for patience as police investigate.

Hundreds of people unfazed by rain gathered Thursday night for a second day to raise awareness about the death of Hamza Warsame.

“Even we don’t know what happened at this point as his family,” said his sister, Ikram Warsame, who joined the crowd of friends and supporters at Seattle Central College.

“And so the speculation that is going on in social media, I just wanna say that everyone that’s jumping to conclusions, thank you for the support, but at the same time let’s wait to see what police have to say.”

Hamza Warsame, 16, was a student at Rainier Beach High School and also at Seattle Central, where he was working toward college credits through the Running Start program.

He fell about 60 feet from an apartment building on Dec. 5, police say. He reportedly had been there working on a school assignment with another college student.

The speculation around his death includes fears that Warsame may have been deliberately killed because he was Muslim. But authorities have not said whether there is any evidence to back up those suspicions or whether the death was the result of foul play.

Still, Warsame's death has touched a nerve in the Somali-American community and in the Muslim community.

Many Muslims say they already feel on edge because of Donald Trump’s recent statements and the attacks in San Bernadino and Paris.  Even before those attacks, there were increased reports of hate crimes against Muslims in Washington state.

Now they’re bracing for a backlash.

“I’m a Muslim, I wear the hijab, which is the head garment,” said Naima Hassan, who was among the demonstrators. “And I feel like for me, when I walk out of the house, I’m always on guard that someone is going to attack me.”

Meanwhile, there are also renewed calls for unity. Several religious groups are organizing demonstrations over the next few days to show solidarity with Muslims.

This story was written by Derek Wang with reporting from Hassan Abdi. Abdi is a KUOW RadioActive Youth Producer. Listen to RadioActive stories, subscribe to the RadioActive podcast and stay in touch on Facebook and Twitter.

Year started with KUOW: 1998.