Relatives and community members filed in and out of Gaari Abdi’s home to pay their respects to a suddenly widowed mother of five — soon to be six. She’d had little sleep in the days since receiving the news that her husband had been killed.
Ahmed Badal, 35, died in the early hours of April 12th near S. 14th Avenue and E. 28th Street while driving for Lyft. He was found lying in the street a block away from his vehicle. Another individual, identified by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s office as 15-year-old Jaden M. Blackmon, was found inside a vehicle at the site of a car crash. Both were pronounced dead at the scene from gunshot wounds.
Minneapolis police are saying little about the case, which remains under investigation. The longer it goes on, family members say, the more they wonder whether there is something police aren’t telling them. Ahmed’s death also has shaken up the community of Somali ride-share drivers, said his friend, Mahamed Dahir, causing some to shift their hours or refrain from driving altogether. Even though Mahamad talked to Ahmed shortly before his death, he said he has not been contacted by police.
Sneakers, sandals, and slippers piled up near the doorway to Gaari’s home on this Sunday afternoon. A few elderly women sat next to Gaari to provide her comfort while a group of men in the adjacent bedroom read verses of the Qur’an, their voices reverberating off the walls.
The couple had been married 10 years, and arrived in the United States together from Ethiopia in 2015. Their five children are between the ages of 1 and 9, and Gaari is due to give birth in mid-May to their sixth child. Her children were unaware of their father’s death until recently. After struggling to find a way to explain their loss, Gaari and some family members sat down with the children and explained what had happened.
Gaari spoke to Ahmed on the night of his death for their usual check in. “The last I heard from him was around midnight,” she said. Ahmed complained to her that he had a headache, but would work through it until he planned to quit at 2 a.m.
Just over an hour later, Gaari received a knock on the door that woke her out of her sleep. She opened it to find Mahamed standing in her hallway. “He came in shouting with concern,” she recalled. “‘He’s not answering the phone,’ he said.”
Mahamad was on the phone with Ahmed near the time of his death. Ahmed had mentioned to him that there was a large police presence in Minneapolis that night. “I told him that it might have to be because of that young man who was killed earlier that day,” Mahamed said in reference to the police shooting of Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center. Ahmed mentioned that he’d head home after one or two more rides. Suddenly, Mahamed heard screams over the phone. “I yelled out, ‘What happened? What happened?’ But he didn’t respond.”
Gaari and Mahamed drove around for hours to nearby hospitals, not thinking at that point that Ahmed had been killed. Mahamed thought he may have been kidnapped for ransom after seeing similar incidents on the news. He called the police that night to see if they knew anything. “The police told us we don’t have him, but if we find him we’ll reach out to you and you do the same,” he said. That call never came.
Soon afterwards, Gaari reached out to her relatives, Mohamed and Khadr Abdullah, to help continue the search. Mohamed decided to call the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s office. “I called the morgue and described him to them and asked if he was here. They said yes,” Mohamed said.
The last time Gaari was able to see her husband was moments before his burial the following Wednesday. “I saw him after he was released and was being prepared for burial,” she said.
Mohamed helped prepare Ahmed’s body for an Islamic burial. He recalled how Ahmed was always going to and from work. “He wanted to get out of this struggle of constantly working. To be able to get his family into a home. They cut his life short,” Mohamed said.
His friend Mahamed said Ahmed was never too busy to help: “He was a good man who would help anyone he came across. If you called him up and told him you needed some assistance, he’d drop everything and get to you.
Ahmed’s killing is reminiscent of Mohammad Anwar’s death last month in Washington D.C.. The 66-year-old Pakistani immigrant was also a father and an UberEats driver who was killed during an attempted carjacking while he was working. Video of Anwar’s death quickly circulated on social media and went viral.
Mahamed hasn’t worked since the night of Ahmed’s death for fear of his own life as a driver for both Uber and Lyft. “Why wouldn’t I be afraid?” he said. “You never know what can happen while you’re working.” In light of Ahmed’s death, Mahamed said other Somali ride-share drivers fear for their safety. Some have stopped driving completely while others relegated their work to daytime hours.
There’s been a growing list of questions for Ahmed’s family surrounding the circumstances of his death. Gaari’s main concern is finding out who shot her husband and why. “I’m seeking justice for my husband,” she said. “I want to find out who it was that did this.”
Another point of concern for Ahmed’s family has been the lack of response from the police. They say they have continued to contact the local precinct, but haven’t received any help in gaining information. They believe his wallet, phone, and ID are in police possession, as well as Ahmed’s car which is also missing.
In a statement provided by spokesperson John Elder, Minneapolis police said paramedics tried to revive Ahmed at the scene, but failed. They said no one is in custody. Elder said Ahmed’s death remains an open investigation, so police were unable to release further information.
Ahmed’s family worries that the police may know more than they’ve let on. “The more the police stay silent on this the more we have to question them,” Khadr said.
“Even if they don’t have any details on what happened, they should have come and given their condolences and informed us that they’re working on the case,” Mohamed added.
Ahmed’s family is seeking to hire a lawyer to help get answers about what happened to Ahmed, and says it wants to publicize his story to tell the Somali community how it has been treated. A Go Fund Me page has been started for the family.
“We hope that the Somali community stands with us and gives this matter attention,” Khadr said. “This is something that could happen to them.”