Five from D.C. club charged with assault on man who died

By Michael Birnbaum and Paul Duggan
Sunday, October 17, 2010

Five men were charged with aggravated assault Saturday in the beating of Ali Ahmed Mohammed in front of a club at Ninth and U streets NW where the men worked.

Mohammed died early Friday at a hospital.

All five men were released after a court proceeding Saturday and were placed in a high-intensity supervision program, which includes electronic monitoring.

About 60 supporters of the men went to the hearing at D.C. Superior Court, cramming the courtroom and filling the hallway outside. Attorneys for two of the men said they were innocent and criticized D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier for calling the incident a "savage" case of "vigilante justice" Friday.

Mohammed, 27, tried to enter DC9 early Friday but was turned away at the door. He became angry and threw at least one brick through the nightclub's front window, witnesses told investigators.

According to a police affidavit filed in court Saturday, witnesses told police that five men left the bar and chased Mohammed, of Silver Spring.

The five suspects in the assault are a co-owner of the DC9 club, William Spieler, 46, and four of his employees: Darryl Carter Jr., 20; Reginald Phillips, 22; and Evan Preller, 28, the club's manager, all D.C. residents; and Arthur Andrew Zaloga, 25, of Silver Spring.

One witness told police that the men chased Mohammed and that Preller caught him and threw him to the ground, according to the affidavit. The witness 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 affidavit.

A second witness gave police a similar account. The witness 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 that Preller caught and threw Mohammed down after the chase and that Mohammed was beaten. But this witness was less clear about the role each defendant played.

The first officer on the scene, about 2:30 a.m. Friday, found Mohammed "lying on the ground, unconscious and not breathing," and he rendered CPR until medics arrived, according to the affidavit. 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.

Some of the suspects' supporters who were at court on Saturday were relatives, others employees and patrons of DC9. The crowd was far too large for the small courtroom, so most people waited in the hallway, chatting, hugging and worrying about what would happen.

There was an audible sigh of relief when someone walked out of the courtroom shortly after noon to tell them that the charges were aggravated assault and not second-degree murder. When Spieler, Preller and Carter walked out of the courtroom not long afterward - released on home detention with electronic monitoring - the crowd erupted in applause. Phillips left not long after that, and Zaloga was to be released later in the day.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2010 The Washington Post Company