Death outside DC9 is ruled a homicide by medical examiner

A pedestrian walks past DC9 nightclub near Ninth and U streets.
A pedestrian walks past DC9 nightclub near Ninth and U streets. (Bill O'Leary - )
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 21, 2010; 11:00 PM

The D.C. medical examiner's office has ruled that the death of a man after a controversial incident outside the DC9 nightclub two months ago was a homicide, but it remains unclear whether a crime was committed during the fatal encounter.

In a statement Tuesday, the medical examiner's office said several factors contributed to the Oct. 15 death of Ali Ahmed Mohammed, 27, who allegedly threw at least one brick through the club's front window shortly after its 2 a.m. closing. Police said Mohammed was then chased by five men - four employees and a co-owner of the bar - and died after a physical encounter with them at Ninth and U streets NW.

Although witnesses told police and reporters that Mohammed had been beaten and stomped by the men, and Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier initially called the incident a "savage" case of "vigilante justice," the medical examiner's statement did not cite blunt force trauma or any other violence as having contributed to his death.

The five men were charged with murder Oct. 15, but the counts were reduced to aggravated assault. Even those charges were dismissed after the medical examiner's office could not immediately determine the cause and manner of Mohammed's death.

On Tuesday, the office listed the manner as homicide and ruled that the cause was "excited delirium associated with arrhythmogenic cardiac anomalies, alcohol intoxication and physical exertion with restraint."

The word "homicide," as used by forensic pathologists, means that the actions of another person contributed to a victim's death. But whether the other person's actions were criminal is up to prosecutors to decide.

The medical examiner's office declined to comment beyond its statement.

The U.S. attorney's office said it will review the autopsy report, which was not made public, and consult with the medical examiner's office before deciding whether to refile criminal charges in what would almost certainly be a complex case to prosecute.

Attorneys for the five men have denied that their clients assaulted Mohammed and have accused Lanier of making irresponsible public statements about the incident before she was aware of all the facts. Reached by telephone late Tuesday, attorneys for three of the men declined to comment on the autopsy.

William R. Martin, an attorney for Mohammed's family in Silver Spring, did not return a phone message seeking comment on the case.

The autopsy "reminds us that Ali suffered a cruel and senseless death," a public relations firm representing Martin said in a statement. "Ali did not deserve to die for allegedly breaking a window. The family remains heartbroken and cannot have peace until those responsible for Ali's death are brought to justice."

Marc S. Micozzi, a forensic pathologist who teaches at Georgetown University and is not involved in the case, said in an interview that the medical examiner's office apparently determined that Mohammed's heart gave out for several reasons.

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