City Paper is not for tourists
If you’re anticipating the D.C. Medical Examiner cracking the mystery of what happened to Ali Ahmed Mohammed, be prepared for the possibility of an excruciating wait.
It might just take until December for the city office to tell us how Mohammed met his end on October 15. The 27-year-old died sometime after he hurled a brick through the window of local venue DC9, and was chased by five men associated with the club. Supporters of the five eventually charged with aggravated assault say the pursuers only restrained Mohammed after the glass shattering, so they could turn him over to cops. But police tell a different version of events. They say at least one eyewitness watched the men beat Mohammed unconscious. There’s still no sign of an autopsy report expected to clear things up.
And it might not show anytime soon. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCFE) spokesperson Beverly Fields points out that per the usual National Association of Medical Examiners guidelines, the District scrutinizers have a whopping 60 to 90 days to submit their autopsy report.
But in a situation where various conspiracy theories abound, including that Mohammed was fine up until he was placed in police custody, a wait that long could be interpreted as stalling. The office conducts the actual autopsy within 24 hours of a suspicious death, after all, so what’s taking so long?
“In some cases, depending on what type of injury or manner they can make the determination in one day,” says Fields. She says a situation where a victim has a gunshot wound to the head, for instance, and there are plenty of witnesses to the murder, equals a quick turn around.
More complex cases take time. A municipal investigative office that operates independent of the police department, the District’s medical examiners might have to request reports or ask for consultations in order to get a clear picture of a victim’s fate. “Every single case is distinct,” says Fields.
And what of Mohammed’s case in particular? Fields can only tell us there’s nothing funny going on with the time it’s taking to churn out the report. “It’s not because anything is wrong or because they’re doing anything out of the ordinary,” she says. She also says those who think D.C.’s medical detectives are taking a unusually long time with Mohammed’s case are mistaken.
“It [the wait so far] isn’t really long for the industry,” she says. If that seems disappointing to those breathlessly awaiting closure, it gets worse. The 90-day limit is a recommendation, not a rule. “There are going to be cases that take more than ninety days,” Fields says.
Though a long wait might be frustrating, a rush job definitely isn’t appropriate. Whatever the office says will be pivotal to either convicting or exonerating the men thought responsible for a tragic death. But it might be nice if the whole thing could be resolved sooner than three months from now.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery