Relatives and supporters of a slain Augsburg College student protested at Minneapolis City Hall Friday, demanding justice from both police and fellow Somalis in eight unresolved slayings of young Somali men.
The case against a man suspected of killing Ahmednur Ali, a youth mentor at the Brian Coyle Community Center, fell through last week after witnesses fled or changed their stories. Some activists say the police should offer protection to witnesses, who fear retribution from Somali gang members.
But city officials say offering that kind of program isn't realistic.
Minneapolis police officer Jeanine Brudenell is a liaison to the Somali community. She said most Somalis are sick of the violence in their community but they need to speak out.
"With the community remaining silent, it gives gang members more power to think they're being successful with their intimidation," Brudenell said. "It emboldens them to think they can do whatever they want."
Abdirahman Mukhtar is a youth program manager at the Brian Coyle center. He's worried that Ali's case might set a precedent for other suspected killers getting off the hook.
"This case could be a blueprint for all the Somali-youth-related violence," Mukhtar said. "There's another case that's coming to court Monday. So, the same thing could happen."
Jury selection is scheduled for Monday in the murder trial of a Somali man charged with killing another Somali outside of a Minneapolis shopping mall. Some activists fear that that case could also fall through because of witnesses backing out.
After protesting at City Hall, the activists visited a Somali mall to ask the public to cooperate with authorities and share what they know about the unresolved murders.
Meanwhile, police and community groups are working to make the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood safer. The Brian Coyle center, the site of Ali's killing, will hire a full-time security guard this summer, thanks to a number of donations from public and private institutions in the area.