Could police have avoided the initial uproar over Ali Ahmed Mohammed‘s death outside DC9?

On Friday, the city’s chief medical examiner suggested top Metropolitan Police Department officials could have gotten the facts right from the outset if only they’d checked in.

Dr. Marie Pierre-Louis was responding to a question put to her by Councilmember Phil Mendelson during a hearing of the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary. Mendelson, who chairs the committee, wanted to know about the case because it seemed “unusual.” His question:

The police, I think, initially announced that it was a homicide. It was a couple of months before you did the report. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. What can you say about that?

After Mohammed died, MPD Chief Cathy Lanier told reporters she believed five DC9 employees were responsible for beating the 27-year-old to death, after he smashed one of the bar’s windows with a brick. “It appears to be vigilante justice. It’s ridiculous. It’s just ridiculous,” Laneir said. But Pierre-Louis contended that one of the detectives working the case should have come by to find out what her office already knew at that point. “Our morning meeting is open to all the detectives,” Pierre-Louis said. “Had one of them been at the meeting, they could have reported better information to the chief of police.”

And what sort of information would the detective have come away with? Pierre-Lous said “the physician who saw this gentlemen, this young man at the hospital, stated in her statement that there was really no trauma visible to the body.”

The examiner said that would have saved authorities (who ended up arresting the five employees but then later dropping all charges against them) from making an incorrect statement: “So they would have already had an idea of the misinformation, misperception that they had. Unfortunately, information got out before we had spoken to anybody, and without our knowledge.”

Fraternal Order of Police head Kris Baumann attended the hearing and later had some strong words about the alleged mistake.”It is extremely important that the police remain impartial prior to the conclusion of an investigation,” he said. “Having said that, unnecessarily aggravating a situation by making comments when you have been given bad information is one thing. It is something else entirely when the police start making accusatory statements without even trying to ascertain the facts.”

MPD hasn’t responded to a request for comment. The medical examiner ruled Mohammed’s death a homicide caused by “excited delirium associated with arrhythmogenic cardiac anomalies, alcohol intoxication and physical exertion with restraint.” The ruling seemed to corroborate the story DC9 employees told: That Mohammed was restrained after the window was broken but not beaten. Prosecutors have said  they’re still investigating Mohammed’s death.

Photo of Ali Ahmed Mohammed courtesy of family