On Dec. 5, Hamza Warsame died after falling from the roof of a six-story building in Capitol Hill, a residential district in Seattle. Amidst a tense racial climate, the Somali-American teen's mysterious death galvanized the city's Muslim and black communities to push police for answers.
Before he died, Warsame attended Seattle Central College with his cousin Mohamed Abdi, 18, where they were both freshmen excited to wrap up the school year. The 16-year-old was part of an accelerated program that lets high-school students earn college credit by enrolling in postsecondary courses.
"Hamza was supposed to go to school to work on a project with a white classmate that day," Abdi told NTRSCTN. "They were supposed to meet up at the library, and then they eventually ended up going to his apartment. He sent the address to his mom."
That was the last time anyone saw or heard from Warsame.
To dispel rumors that his death was a suicide, Warsame's family, friends, and local community members created the hashtag #Justice4Hamza. They claim his death was a hate crime, and are urging police to do more.
dear news stations, Hamza did not fall off the balcony. this was not a death suicide. he was beaten, pushed, killed. #justice4hamza
#Justice4Hamza Thank you to those who have made this hashtag. My brother was a sweet boy and I hope you all can spread his story further.
The Seattle Police Department confirmed to NTRSCTN on Tuesday that it is investigating Warsame's death. Because the investigation is ongoing, however, it declined to release any further information. "The department is aware of community concerns about the case, and Assistant Chief Robert Merner is personally supervising the matter," police announced on Dec. 8.
Warsame's relatives insist that his death was not a suicide.
"We knew Hamza. He had no signs of being suicidal," Abdi explained. "He was happy, and content with his life, and had so much to live for. It's just sad that that's how his life ended. All we want is for his death to be a priority of the Seattle Police Department and the Seattle community."
Warsame's 18-year-old sister, Ikram, took to Twitter to repeatedly deny that her younger brother was suicidal.
She also created a GoFundMe page to raise money for her family, and posted an update there on Wednesday:
Our family is fighting to make sure that justice is served and we are confident that, with your help and support, we can make that happen. As of now we are still waiting for an update from the Seattle Police Department.
Many tweeting under the hashtag #Justice4Hamza, which attracted more than 500 tweets, suspected that foul play was involved in his death. In fact, several claimed Warsame was beaten before he fell off the building.
However, The New York Times reported that a police official close to the investigation said a preliminary examination of Warsame's body did not display signs of injuries "consistent with having been physically beaten."
The anonymous source added, “There wasn’t any evidence suggesting foul play.”
The Seattle Police Department has asked the public to "avoid jumping to conclusions" until the King County Medical Examiner's office makes "a final determination as to the cause and manner of the young man’s death."
But Warsame's family and friends remain skeptical.
His classmates at Seattle Central College repeatedly called on school administrators to acknowledge his death.
"We were supposed to get a letter from our school president saying that we had a tragic incident," Abdi said. "But they didn't send that letter in the morning [on Monday, Dec. 7]. They sent in the afternoon after we had to remind the school president about Hamza's death. That felt like an injustice right there. It made us feel like his life didn't matter."
Sheila Edwards Lange, the school's interim president, released this statement about Warsame on Monday:
It is with a heavy heart that I share with you the sad news that one of our students, Hamza Warsame, passed away as a result of a fall on Saturday. On behalf of Seattle Central College, I extend my deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Hamza, as well as his fellow students and the instructors who were privileged to know this young man. To lose one of our students who showed so much promise is a deeply tragic event, one that will no doubt touch each of us in profound ways.
For Abdi and other Somali-Americans, Warsame's death is especially alarming due to mounting racism and Islamophobia across the United States and globally, following a series of high-profile terroristattacks.
"We have people like Donald Trump trying to ban all Muslims, or the Black Lives Matter movement taking place," Abdi said. "We're not only trying to get justice for Hamza, but justice for all black and Muslim people. We want all black lives and Muslim lives to be respected."
Since his death, the Somali-American community has refused to stay silent.
On Dec. 10, hundreds of people gathered outside of the Seattle Police Department to hold a #Justice4Hamza vigil. Both Seattle Central College's Black Student Union and members of the Muslim student body marched and prayed in solidarity.
Warsame's supporters didn't go unnoticed.
"Due to the help of the protest and us having to make them more aware, it feels like the Seattle Police Department has now decided to go back to the investigation," Abdi said.
As they await news from police, Warsame's loved ones say they'll continue seeking justice for a life cut short.
"Hamza was just getting his feet wet with so many things that we hoped to accomplish in life, and we just want his story to be heard," Abdi said. "He was just one of the nicest people you could have ever met."