Before suffering gruesome and fatal injuries Thursday, Abdisamad Sheikh-Hussein helped lead the evening Muslim prayers at his mosque near downtown.
“He asked for mercy for humankind and asked for humans to follow the righteous path,” remembered Ali Abdi, the assistant director of the Somali Center of Kansas City and its mosque.
But Abdisamad, 15, received no mercy minutes later as he stepped off the curb at 1340 Admiral Boulevard and headed toward a car. A Chevrolet Blazer speeding eastbound sideswiped the car and struck Abdisamad, nearly severing his legs.
The Staley High School sophomore died later at a hospital.
The driver of the SUV, Ahmed H. Aden, a 34-year-old Kansas City truck driver, told police after his arrest that he had been searching for men who’d threatened him nine days earlier. And he said he planned to kill those men if he found them, according to court records.
Aden told police that he intentionally struck Abdisamad, but he had mistaken the teen for one of the men who had threatened him.
Jackson County prosecutors charged Aden with first-degree murder, armed criminal action, leaving the scene of an accident and unlawful use of a weapon.
Abdisamad’s uncle, Abdinajib Dirir, said the family, who had emigrated from war-torn Somalia, was devastated.
“There are no words to describe,” he said. “This is a community that fled a violent situation. Now we’re facing violence in the United States. … We are American like everyone else. And this is a tragedy for us.”
Aden, whom sources described as a Somali Christian, now is the target of both a state murder investigation and a federal hate-crimes probe, authorities said.
Members of the Somali community said that Aden long was known to have made frequent and violent threats against Muslims and the mosque, occasionally even threatening the mass slaughter of worshipers.
Abdi said the man had been reported to authorities repeatedly and that Abdisamad even was interviewed by police about threats he had heard Aden make before.
“He said he will kill a number of people,” Abdi said. “Ultimately, he killed one. Allah did not allow him to kill more.”
Moussa Elbayoumy, chairman of the Kansas chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said a member of the mosque has a photo of Aden’s SUV, taken about two months ago, showing anti-Muslim graffiti, reading, “Quran is a virus disease (worse) than Ebola.”
“He made verbal threats to them that he intended to kill several people,” Elbayoumy said.
Ahmed Abdi, 13, and other boys at the mosque on Friday confirmed they had seen the graffiti scrawled across the SUV as it cruised around the mosque recently.
“He said bad things about our religion,” Ahmed said. “He came around with his car and had signs saying, ‘Islam is a disease.’”
Also Friday, Kansas City police released a report of a telephone interview of Aden, conducted Oct. 25 by an officer investigating an assault at a Somali market on Independence Avenue.
“The (suspect) stated to me that several people from … Islam (were) going to kill him,” the officer wrote. “I then asked the (suspect) why they want to kill him, and he stated that he was only practicing his freedom of press/expression.”
No charges were filed in the assault case, police said, because the victim declined to pursue prosecution.
Court records indicated that Aden previously lived in Dodge City, Kan., and Minnesota.
He appeared to have a minimal criminal record. He was ticketed by the Missouri Highway Patrol earlier this year for driving a vehicle exceeding the allowable weight. A court in Rice County, Minn., convicted him in 2008 for driving under the influence of alcohol.
He served a 90-day sentence in the county jail and was on probation for one year.
“It is heartbreaking, I tell you that,” Mohamed Abdikafi, 34, said standing over the ovens at Jabaland, the Somali grill he owns on Independence Avenue.
Abdikafi, a Somali who has been in Kansas City for about five years, said he knew both Abdisamad and Aden.
He said Aden was well-known in the community as a disturbed and angry man.
“That guy, he had an issue with the whole community,” Abdikafi said.
Aden, he said, would frequently spout hatred and at times was known to be threatening.
“You could tell he was looking for trouble,” Abdifaki said of Aden, whom he served beef stew at 10 a.m. on the morning of the killing.
He said most people in the community tended to wave off Aden’s opinions as hateful, but meaningless, rantings.
“Nobody took him seriously. Everybody would walk away,” Abdifaki said. Yet now, he added, “I wish we took him seriously.”
Abdisamad also was well known in the Somali community, but as a kind, happy and decent boy from a good family.
His father, Adullahi Mohamud, is the assistant to the imam at the mosque and also teaches there. He and his wife, Hawa, have three other children, a son and two daughters, Abdi said.
At the mosque on Friday morning, Bashir Alew, 42, a Somali who is a pharmacist now living in Lee’s Summit, broke into tears as he talked about the death. Alew has four children.
“This is where my children come on the weekend,” he said of the mosque. They attended weekend religious school there on Saturdays and Sundays.
Alew said his 13-year-old used to play basketball with Abdisamad, whom Alew had known for 10 years.
Abdi said Abdisamad spent most of his weekends at the mosque, arriving at 8 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays and leaving about 8 p.m. He would distribute food to the needy and help Somali community members with their English.
Abdisamad also looked out for the drunken homeless men who occasionally staggered by the mosque. Abdi remembered that recently Abdisamad helped one such man to his feet after he’d fallen.
Abdi remembered teasing the boy, telling him not to bother unless he also had a home for the man.
“I said, ‘Leave him alone,’” Abdi recalled.
“But he needs help,” Abdisamad replied.
Abdi paused to compose himself.
“He was one of the best boys at the center,” he said.
Later Friday afternoon, more than 200 men, women and children packed the Somali Center mosque for Friday prayers. Afterward, many gathered around the boy’s family to offer comfort.
A group of teenage boys stood in a group across the room, some almost in a daze, trying to figure out how to cope with the loss of their friend.
Mohamed Ahmed, 13, said on Thursday, Abdisamad “was leading our prayer, and then after that, he just went outside. He was going to the gym to meet his friends and play basketball. And then, he got hit.”
Ahmed Abdurahan, 15, described his friend as “a nice guy, very easy to talk to.”
“He was like a regular kid,” he said. “He was smart in school, and he knew about the religion. It’s really shocking to see him gone now.”
He said he had just seen his friend at the prayer service on Thursday afternoon.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “I still can’t believe he’s gone. My mind can’t wrap around it.”
Ahmed Mohamed, a close friend of the boy’s family, described him as “that friend you could go to and talk to.”
“Everybody in this community knew him,” he said. “There was no person that he would exempt, nobody who didn’t like him. He was the kind of person who everybody loved.”
Alew and others dismissed the notion that Abdisamad’s death was an outgrowth of some sort of larger religious differences between Somalis who are Muslim and those who are Christian.
“It is a small community,” he said of Somalis in the Kansas City area.
The most recent U.S. census puts the number at just short of 600 inside the Kansas City limits, but it does not include the outlying suburbs.
Alew said that on any given Saturday or Sunday, some 600 to 700 Somalis will flow in and out of the mosque. Christian and Muslim Somalis, he said, get along well in Kansas City.
“I don’t think this is a Christian, Muslim issue,” he said. “I think this is a mental issue.”
Abdirizak Mohamed, 34, who came to Kansas City from Somalia about 12 years ago, said the same.
“Everybody gets along here,” he said. “Everyone’s at peace.”
Judy L. Thomas, Matt Campbell and Robert A. Cronkleton contributed to this report.