UPDATE – DC night club owner beats young Ethiopian to death

EthiopianReview.com | October 17th, 2010

UPDATE ( Oct. 17): A preliminary hearingĀ  has been scheduled for November 11 at the DC Superior Court. Also watch the video below.

(Oct. 16) — The owner and 4 employees of DC9, a night club on Washington DC’s U Street, savagely attacked and killed a young Ethiopian named Ali Ahmed Mohammed early Friday.

The owner of DC9 Bill Spieler and his employees were charged with second-degree murder in Ali’s “savage beating,” the DC Police Chief said initially, but at a court hearing today, the charge was reduced to aggravated assault, drawing anger and outrage among Ali’s family and friends. The five individuals chased Ali, tackled him to the ground and beat him to death as he begged them to stop, according to an eyewitness. This is murder, not assault.

Ali’s friends suspect that the charge could have been reduced due to political pressure since the owners of DC9 have strong contacts with some of DC’s most powerful politicians.

Ethiopians in the Washington DC area need to express our outrage against such blatant injustice against Ali by contacting the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia at 202 514 7566, email: dc.outreach@usdoj.gov

The following are reports by Washington Post.

Five men were charged with aggravated assault (the charge was reduced from second degree murder) Saturday in the beating of Ali Ahmed Mohammed in front of a club at Ninth and U streets where the men worked.

Mohammed died early Friday at at a hospital, a short time after the alleged assault.

Four of the men were released after a court proceeding Saturday, and the fifth was to be released later in the afternoon. All were placed in a high-intensity supervision program, which includes electronic monitoring.

D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier on Friday called the incident a “savage” case of “vigilante justice.”

Mohammed, 27, tried to enter DC9 early Friday but was turned away at the door. He became angry, picked up two bricks and hurled them through the nightclub’s front window, witnesses told investigators.

According to a police affidavit filed in court Saturday, the first officer on the scene at 2:30 a.m. Friday found Mohammed, of Silver Spring, “lying on the ground, unconscious and not breathing” and rendered CPR until medics arrived. Officers saw dried blood on Mohammed’s face and noticed that his head was swollen. He was taken to Howard University Hospital and pronounced dead about 3:15 a.m.

The five suspects in the assault are the co-owner of the DC9 club, William Spieler 46 (shown on the photo below), and four of his employees: Darryl Carter Jr., 20; Reginald Phillips, 22; and Evan Preller, 28, the club’s manager, all residents of the District; and Arthur Andrew Zaloga, 25, of Silver Spring.

One witness told police that five men chased Mohammed and that Preller caught Mohammed and threw him to the ground, according to the affidavit. The witness said he watched Carter, Zaloga, Spieler and Phillips “stomp the victim on the head and the body” as Preller held him down, the document states. Spieler kicked Mohammed several times, the witness told police, according to the affadavit.

A second witness told police that he saw Mohammed walking with what appeared to be two bricks. The witness asked Mohammed what he was going to do with the bricks and Mohammed responded: “[Expletive] those people up.” The witness said he also saw Preller catch and throw Mohammed down and that Mohammed was beaten. But this witness was less clear about the role each defendant played.

Second-degree murder charges were initially filed against the men. But the charges had been expected to be reduced because the D.C. medical examiner’s report on the cause of Mohammed’s death is pending, according to law enforcement sources. Although an autopsy was performed, authorities said, lab tests have to be done before a ruling can be made on whether the death was a homicide caused by the beating.

The law-enforcement sources, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is continuing, said the charges could be changed back to murder after the medical examiner rules.

Another witness, speaking to a reporter Friday, said the victim cried for mercy during the beating, shouting: “Please! Please! Please!”

Attorneys for Spieler and Preller said that Lanier’s comments Friday had been prejudicial and that she spoke before the incident was fully investigated.

“Chief Lanier jumped to conclusions before a full investigation was completed,” said Danny C. Onorato, Preller’s attorney, who said that his client is “innocent of any crime completely.”

Spieler’s attorney, Steven J. McCool, said his client is also innocent.

“Bill Spieler is a kind and gentle man,” McCool said. “We’re confident that when this investigation is completed, these men will be proven innocent.” He added that Mohammed’s death was a “tragedy.”

Both lawyers tried to enter not-guilty pleas in court Saturday, but Judge Frederick H. Weisberg said that was premature.

Attorneys for Phillips, Zaloga and Carter declined to comment.

Phillips “has never been in trouble,” said a man who identified himself as Phillips’s uncle but would not provide his name. “He’s a skinny kid. He’s nice. He’s docile.”

And a woman who described herself as a frequent patron of DC9 said she was “upset” by the way the police had handled the case.

“These are good kids, these are good people,” said Adrienne Wheeler. “At the end of the day, they were at work. These are professionals,” she said, and they would not have assaulted Mohammed in the way police say they did.

Skip Coburn, the executive director of the D.C. Nightlife Association, said Saturday that he had known Spieler “for years” and that he was one the most responsible club owners in the organization, a regular at safety and security training that the association provides its members.

“I would imagine that if someone throws a brick through your window, you’re going to make some attempt to apprehend the person,” Coburn said. But he said he did not believe that the club employees would then attack the brick-thrower.

Second-degree murder charges were initially filed against the men. But the charges had been expected to be reduced because the D.C. medical examiner’s report on the cause of Mohammed’s death is pending, according to law enforcement sources. Although an autopsy was performed, authorities said, lab tests have to be done before a ruling can be made on whether the death was a homicide caused by a beating. The D.C. medical examiner “did not observe external injuries sufficient to allow it to opine on the cause of death,” according to the police affidavit.

D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who represents the area, said Saturday that switching charges was “very perplexing. We need to get to the bottom of it as soon as possible.”

The law enforcement sources, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is continuing, said the charges could be changed back to murder after the medical examiner rules.

DC9 is a well-known, established club that often features indie bands. Its shows are listed and reviewed in publications across the region, including The Washington Post. The club remains closed after Lanier, acting within her authority as chief, ordered it shut Friday.

(Updated Friday at 4:15 PM) — Officials at the Medical Examiner’s Officer say they have not ruled Mohammed’s death a homicide. They would not elaborate. Police had called a press conference for 3:45 p.m. Friday to possibly amend the charges, according to sources. But that news conference was canceled.

“We don’t have cause of death yet,” Police Chief Cathy Lanier said in an email. The autopsy was not yet complete, she said.

(Original Post) — The owner and four employees of a popular nightclub off U Street chased and then fatally beat and stomped a man after he threw a rock through a window of the club, police said.

Ali Ahmed Mohammed, 27, of Silver Spring was killed outside the DC9 Nightclub in an act of “vigilante justice,” Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said.

One of the club’s owners, Bill Spieler, 46, and four employees have each been charged with second-degree murder in Mohammed’s “savage beating,” the chief said.

DC92.jpg

The attack occurred about 2:30 a.m. about a block away from the club at 1940 Ninth St. NW, Lanier said, after Mohammed was denied entry to the club at closing time and threw a rock through the window.

The five men came out of the club, chased Mohammed for a block before all five tackled, punched, kicked and stomped him, Lanier said in an interview outside police headquarters. Mohammed, of the 11100 block of Norlee Drive, was barely conscious when police arrived, Lanier said.

“In my opinion,” the chief said, “when you talk about a beating like this as a result of property damage, a loss of life from a savage beating that appears to be vigilante justice, it’s just ridiculous.”

Lanier said she will close down the club Friday: “It will happen today.”

There was no evidence, Lanier said, that the attack was a hate crime. “It appears that the assault was precipitated by the fact that he threw a rock through the window.” She said there was no indication that any of the suspects knew Mohammed before the attack.

Police arrested another bar patron about 1:30 a.m. after the clubgoer scuffled with employees inside the club and was ejected, Lanier said. But police “have nothing to suggest” that incident and Mohammed’s beating “are connected in any way,” Lanier said.

Besides Spieler, the employees arrested were: Darryl Carter, 20, of the 600 block of Morton Place NE; Reginald Phillips, 22, of the 2000 block of Fifth Street NW; Evan Preller, 28, of the 2500 block of Mozart Place NW; and Arthur Zaloca of the12500 block of Epping Court in Silver Spring.

Joe Englert, who owns the club with Spieler, said in a telephone interview that “at least two and maybe three” of his employees had placed a 911 call to police after the window was broken “and were awaiting their arrival.”

Citing the police investigation, he declined to say whether the employees were detaining Mohammed “but we are confident, very confident in the honesty and integrity of the staff. They have been well trained,” said Englert. He said the handling of the earlier incident at the nightclub in which an unruly patron was ejected and later arrested “shows you our people are trained right.”

Mohammed’s death, said Englert is “tragedy and it is sickening that it happened but we are really confident that once everything is known it will all be fine for our people.” He said the club “will help Chief Lanier and work with police however we can.”

(Reported by Paul Duggan, Mary Pat Flaherty, Michael Birnbaum and Paul Duggan of the Washington Post. Staff writers Mary Pat Flaherty, Dan Morse and Clarence Williams and researchers Magda Jean-Louis and Julie Tate contributed to this report.)