When the New York Times comes through town to check in with Minnesota’s Somali community, a variation of the genre World ends: Women and minorities hardest hit is at hand. Times reporter Jack Healy, for example, arrived this past June just in time for the verdicts in the terrorism case involving Minnesota’s ISIS wannabes. Healy’s article on the verdicts (written with freelancer Matt Furber) sought to convey the impression that he had attended the trial. Working up the article, Healy drew on the kinds of skills that Ronald Reagan brought to calling baseball games on the radio from a newswire.
When I saw Healy’s article in the Times the day after the verdicts came in, I knew he hadn’t bothered to attend the trial but wrote him to confirm. I emailed him to ask if he had been around. Healy promptly responded: “Did I get something wrong?”
Sort of. Healy and Furber turned for comment on the verdicts to Burhan Mohumed, a “community organizer” and friend of the defendants who condemned the verdicts as “purely political.” Judge Davis had banned Mohumed from the courthouse for repeated violation of the protocols he imposed to maintain order in the courtroom during the trial, yet Healy considered him a go-to guy on the sufficiency of the evidence to support the verdicts.
“I left a little hope that they wouldn’t be convicted on a conspiracy to murder charge,” Mohumed said. “I didn’t think they had enough evidence to convict them on that. I think that was an overreach.” Healy and Furber quoted Mohumed again in their follow-up article on community reaction—Somali community reaction, that is—to the verdict.
Following the stabbing rampage committed by Somali immigrant Dahir Adan, the Times sent Mitch Smith to town. Smith gives us last week’s classic “Unanswered questions fuel doubts among friends of Minnesota mall attacker.” Smith reports:
Frustration is growing among members of the Somali community here who are eager for official information about a stabbing attack at a mall Saturday that left 10 people injured and the suspect, Dahir Adan, shot dead by an off-duty policeman. The episode is being investigated as a potential terrorist attack by the F.B.I.
“I don’t believe the terrorist part,” said Jamal Ali, 16, who said Mr. Adan was “a respectful, nice guy” who behaved normally last Thursday when giving him a ride home after they played basketball at a local gym.
The St. Cloud police, citing eyewitnesses, said within hours of Saturday’s attack that Mr. Adan had mentioned Allah during the episode and asked at least one victim if he was Muslim before assaulting him. On Sunday, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack and referred to Mr. Adan, 20, as a “soldier” for their terrorist organization. The F.B.I. swiftly mobilized to investigate the case.
But since Monday, the authorities have released almost no new information about the case, frustrating some Somalis here, who are dubious of any link to the terrorist group, and are unsure why it is taking the authorities so long to release surveillance video and a more detailed narrative.
“Right now, anyone who knows him is really, really desperate for answers,” said Mubarak Ibrahim, a St. Cloud State University student who said he had known Mr. Adan since they attended junior high school together. Mr. Ibrahim said there was “nothing abnormal about” Mr. Adan, whom he saw playing basketball about two weeks ago.
“The longer they take with bringing out facts, that gives more people time to come up with their own stories,” Mr. Ibrahim said.
St. Cloud’s police chief, William Blair Anderson, said as recently as Tuesday that no evidence had been found tying Mr. Adan to terrorist groups, adding fuel to hushed discussions in St. Cloud’s Somali grocery stores and apartment buildings about whether this was a planned terrorist attack or something altogether different.
For some reason the Times never asks the rest of the “community” for their thoughts. I’ve got a few of my own, but I have yet to be sought out by the Times for them.
Indeed, I’ve got a few unanswered of my own. In the press conference held by law enforcement authorities on September 18, the day after the rampage, the authorities refused to identify the perpetrator (despite the implication of Smith’s article to the contrary).
Recall that Adan was dead. At their Sunday morning press conference, however, the authorities acted as though they were protecting someone’s privacy interest.
One was left to infer that the perpetrator was a member of St. Cloud’s Somali community. One was left to infer that he was Muslim. Star Tribune reporter Paul Walsh continued to hold out the possibility that Muslims had been the target of the rampage. I drew the opposite inference from the silence of the authorities on this point. Later that day the Star Tribune reported the identity of the perpetrator based on an interview with Adan’s father. (Walsh’s online version of the story was edited to remove the possibility he had offered earlier that day.)
I called the St. Cloud police department last week to ask if the department had gotten around to identifying Adan as the perpetrator of the rampage. The department referred me to Kyle Loven, the FBI Minneapolis Division spokesman. I said I wanted to know whether the St. Cloud department had identified Adan. My call was routed to the St. Cloud assistant chief of police. I left a message with my question but my call was never returned.
I too am disappointed and frustrated by the pace of the investigation, now turned over to the FBI, but forget about me. What about Burhan Mohumed? Burhan Mohumed was apparently unavailable for comment.