The Muslim community in Portland, Maine, is looking to the police to provide answers in the shooting death of a 22-year-old Black Muslim man who was killed on the evening of March 16. Right now, faith leaders and family members say they are frustrated and disappointed by the lack of answers.
According to The Portland Press Herald, more than 40 people gathered together to meet with the city’s interim police chief last Friday and expressed their fears that the death of Isahak Muse was, in fact, a hate crime. Although the police have told the community that the case is being investigated and there is no danger to the public, many are wondering why no details about the case have been released.
Mahmoud Hassan, who serves as the president of the Somali Community Association of Maine, said during the town-hall style meeting, “This carries all the hallmarks of interracial and interreligious conflict.” He also added, “I don’t want to use too strong of a word – it’s not too strong of a word, actually. Interracial and interreligious hatred.”
Although many in the community are pointing to a motive, interim Police Chief Vern Malloch says he is not releasing specifics in the case out of caution for the investigation.
“We will have one shot at charging someone, holding them accountable and going to trial,” Malloch told those gathered. “We’ve only got one shot. And if we miss something in the investigation, if we do something wrong, if we rush, we jeopardize the case.”
In an interview with ESSENCE, Isahak’s sister, Awo Muse, spoke about the difficulties the family has experienced in trying to get information about their brother’s death.
“The police are not releasing any information as far as who was in the home, what happened, or who got shot. Obviously, my brother is the one that got shot, but we don’t know who shot him, or who pulled the trigger,” Awo said.
Awo did give a little more insight into where her brother was when he was killed. According to her, he was at his girlfriend’s house, where she lived with her family.
“There was an altercation in the home with one of those members of the family. So there’s a mom, a dad, a brother, a sister. He was dating the youngest of the sisters. I think someone from the family came home, and they found Isahak there, and only god knows what kind of altercation happened. When we saw his body he was bruised up. There were bruises on his face, and bruises on his nose because there had been a fight,” she said.
During the press conference, Malloch would not address the rumors about Isahak’s death but did say everyone who was present in the house at the time of the shooting was identified and tested. The results of the forensic analysis could take weeks to come back.
But weeks isn’t good enough for the Muse family.
“He got murdered in a home where he trusted these people, and they were the last people to see him. They are still alive walking, eating, sleeping, and he doesn’t get any of those chances. My family is devastated. Isahak was the last to be born in our family and the first to die. Everybody dies. We’re Muslim people and we believe that every soul is going to be returned to god, but the way that he died is so tragic, I mean it’s not like it was an accident,” Awo continued.
Interestingly enough, the only person who was willing to let the family know what happened, according to Awo, is her brother’s girlfriend who made contact with another family member to tell them the truth. But shortly after Isahak was killed, the unnamed woman was allegedly admitted to the psychiatric ward at Spring Harbor Hospital in Portland, Maine.
The Muse family has enlisted the help of civil rights attorney Justin A. Moore to provide guidance with their case.
”My office has been retained to investigate not only Isahak’s murder, but also to investigate the Portland, Maine Police Department that’s leading the “official” investigation- or lack thereof. With the mysterious nature in which the department has avoided providing Isahak’s family details about his murder, the fact that one of the residents of the home where Isahak’s life was taken served as an intern for the Portland PD, also the fact that one of the residents of the home where he died was rushed to a mental hospital after they expressed a desire to provide a statement as to what happened that night and the rapid rise of anti Muslim extremism in this country, the longer Isahak’s family does not receive answers for his death, Portland PD’s lack of transparency deserves intense scrutiny. My office will zealously seek out justice for this grieving family and aid in providing the scrutiny that Portland, Maine PD deserves, due to fetters of their own forging,” Moore stated.
As the Muse family waits, Awo just wants people to remember her brother and how good of a person he was. “Our family wants to remember Isahak how he lived, not how he died. I want people to know that my brother was a lover. I will not let them paint him out to be a person that’s violent. He loved every soul. I’m talking about the old, the young and the babies. He was so affectionate. And every time he greeted any of us, he would kiss us on both cheeks, and make us laugh.”