Somali Americans grieving the five young women killed by a speeding driver want answers.
Among their questions: Who was responsible for the unauthorized release of the crash video that went viral on social media? Why did the suspect in the crash, Derrick Thompson, have his license reinstated in Minnesota after he was imprisoned for a 2018 hit-and-run in California? What was the involvement of the state trooper who began following Thompson's rented SUV after it sped past him on Interstate 35W just before the SUV left the interstate and slammed into the women's car?
"We are asking the governor of the state of Minnesota to create an independent investigation into this case," said Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Minnesota.
He addressed reporters Monday at Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, flanked by loved ones of the women who died. The victims all had been active members of the mosque and were running errands for a wedding when prosecutors say Thompson's vehicle struck them the night of June 16, killing them instantly.
Hussein said he wants an investigation independent of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. Though Minneapolis police are probing the crash video leak, Hussein said he doesn't have confidence in their ability to do the job given that the Department of Justice recently found the municipal police department had a pattern of civil rights abuses.
Thompson had pleaded guilty in 2020 to a hit-and-run in California that left a tourist with permanent injuries. Thompson received eight years, and was released early, in January, authorities said. In March, he was notified that his driving privileges would be reinstated once he met requirements, according to a state Department of Vehicle Services spokesman. On June 7, Thompson got his Minnesota license.
In addition, the trooper was posted at 46th Street exit but, having been at a stop, never caught up with Thompson speeding near 95 mph before he exited onto Lake Street, the charges said. The trooper never activated emergency lights or sirens, according to the complaint.
The Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association said in a statement Tuesday that police did not initiate a chase and aren't responsible for Thompson's actions.
"It's disingenuous for CAIR and other groups to diminish Thompson's actions by seeking to blame others rather than Thompson himself," the association's general counsel Imran Ali said in a statement.
Hussein said there's "just a number of things that with this particular incident seemed to be out of order." For the family members of the deceased, "this is a pain that they hope will never be brought forward to any family in our state and our country."
That pain resonated in the voices of the victims' loved ones, who came together to speak publicly for the first time about Salma Mohamed Abdikadir, 20; Sahra Liban Gesaade, 20; Sagal Burhaan Hersi, 19; Siham Adan Odhowa, 19 and Sabiriin Mohamoud Ali, 17.
Wiping away tears, Abdulkani Odhowa paused for a long time. He lowered his eyes.
"Sagal," he said of his cousin, "was a remarkable young woman known for her kindness and infectious laughter. She possessed a brilliant mind and limitless potential. … Sagal's spirit was filled with determination and a passion to make a difference in the world."
Yusra Ali spoke of how Abdikadir was her best friend and like a sister to her. They both taught at the mosque's Sunday school and had an "unbreakable bond" since 10th grade. She was like the therapist in their friend group, Ali recalled — she thought that's why Abdikadir was pursuing a psychology degree at St. Paul College.
"She was very attentive to detail when people talked to her and often put others before herself," Ali said. "She was also very family oriented and put family first, as she always made sure her younger siblings were taken care of."
Rukia Gessade remembered the love and compassion of her younger sister Sahra Gessade. She majored in health sciences at the University of Minnesota in Rochester and took all the courses to apply for medical school next year with the hope of becoming an orthopedic surgeon.
"I remember how you would spend countless hours at your desk, pouring over textbooks and solving complex equations. Your hard work and determination were truly inspiring."
The Muslim community will feel the loss all the more as they prepare to celebrate Eid al-Adha,
a major holiday, on Wednesday, and gather on the lawn at Dar Al-Farooq, where they came together last week for prayers before the massive funeral.
"I don't know how joyous it's going to be for a lot of people," said Abdulahi Farah, a board member of the mosque.
He explained that since the tragedy, "some of the young people are not eating. Some of them are not sleeping. They want to be awake the whole night. Some of them want to be at the grave site because they're just like, 'We want to be close to them.' "
The message on Eid, he said, will be about supporting one another and making sure they stay connected.