Relatives of a 25-year-old Somali man convicted Wednesday in a shooting case say the trial and verdicts are unfair.
A Hennepin County jury convicted Zakaria Yusuf of St. Paul of attempted murder, first and second degree assault and illegal possession of a gun. The shooting, which police called gang related, was one of several violent confrontations between young Somali men in Minneapolis last year.
Family members say Yusuf was not in a gang and could not have shot Mohamed Omar on Sept. 22 at a Minneapolis grocery store because he was at home in St. Paul. "He can't be two places at the same time," said Mohamed Abdi, who identified himself as a Yusuf relative.
The prosecution relied on testimony from the shooting victim, Mohamed Omar, who refused to name Yusuf as the person who shot him. The state's case also relied on surveillance video which showed Yusuf wearing clothing similar to that of the shooter.
Defense attorney Fred Goetz said Yusuf was not the person in video taken at the scene of the shooting wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt with the hood pulled up. Goetz also argued during the trial that Omar, the victim, was a liar and no one should trust his story.
Omar was a reluctant witness who'd skipped out of a previous trial and had to be subpoenaed in order to testify. On the witness stand, Omar contradicted statements he gave to police at the time of the shooting. Omar looked at Yusuf in the courtroom and denied he was the shooter.
However, Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Vicki Vial Taylor said Omar identified Yusuf from a photo lineup shortly after the shooting and was the only person to really get a good look at Yusuf. Omar was not a perfect or even likeable witness but the pieces of the case all added up to Yusuf's guilt, she said.
Abdi and a few dozen other family members and supporters sat in the courtroom and listened quietly, many with tears in their eyes, as the clerk read the verdicts.
Prosecutors chose not to add gang-related charges because they didn't think they could prove them.
In a statement, though, the Hennepin County Attorney's Office said Yusuf was "known to associate with the St. Pistol Boys gang in St. Paul" and Somali gangs in Minneapolis, and that Omar is a member of Somali Outlawz Gang.
Yusef faces 14 years in prison, officials said. He's scheduled to be sentenced July 1.