Unsolved shooting deaths leave family and friends distraught

Photo courtesy of Marjaan Sirdar Police at the crash scene

A lot of mystery surrounds the April 12 deaths of Lyft driver Ahmed Badal and 15-year-old Jaden Blackmon in South Minneapolis. Both had been shot and found dead around 2 am near 28th Street and 14th Avenue where the cars they had been riding in crashed into one another.

Police reported that Badal’s body was found about a block away from the crash. Blackmon was found dead by police in the other car in which he had been a passenger.

It is not clear what led up to their deaths or who killed them. Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) spokesperson John Elder responded to an inquiry by Unicorn Riot into the killings in a statement that said, “Because this case is being very actively investigated, I am unable to disclose any other facts of the case.”

On May 14, more than a month after his murder, Badal’s family met with MPD Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, who attempted to dispel rumors that police were involved in his death. “We told the chief we don’t believe them,” said Badal’s widow Gaari Abdi.

However, Arradondo told Badal’s family that police do have a suspect and there is a warrant for their arrest, according to Fatah Abdi, a cousin of Badal. Abdi said the family believes the police are not telling them everything because so many questions remain unanswered.

Both families of the victims say police could clear up exactly what happened that night.  According to Abdi, when Arradondo was asked if the family could view street surveillance videos, police body cams and dash cam evidence, the chief denied that any of it exists.

Badal’s family believes his car was struck by a speeding silver car full of teenagers fleeing police. The family assumes that Badal got out of his car after the crash and was then shot and killed.

According to the family, a friend of Badal’s was on the phone with him at the time of the accident. The friend said Ahmad’s last words were “there are a lot of police ahead” and then he heard groans and the phone dropped.

“What are they hiding?” said Badal’s widow. “We don’t have any information about this. Sometimes I think that police shot him and killed him.”

Police spokesperson Elder said, “We have met with numerous members of the community and a victim’s family. I am well aware that there is the rumor that this was an officer-involved shooting. That is simply untrue.”

A missing body

In the early morning hours of April 12 family members called the police and local hospitals looking for Badal, but none were able to locate him. Eventually, Hennepin County Medical Center confirmed to a brother of Ahmed that he was killed and that they had received his body, but he was no longer at the hospital.

“We were treated worse than animals,” said Mohamud Abdalla, another cousin of Ahmed, who said he was offended by the MPD’s refusal to help them find the body and provide answers about what happened. Badal’s family said they were not allowed to see the body until it arrived at the funeral home the day of the burial.

A strange visit

Gaari said a group of young Somali men visited Badal’s widow on May 1 and one of them did most of the talking. “The way they talked, the police were after these four Somali guys,” said Gaari.

“He wanted to get information from me. [He asked,] ‘Do you have any idea who killed him?’ They were looking for information.”

She also recalled the young man saying, “‘The police told us there were seven African American guys…and they are the ones who shot the guy in the vehicle.’ So completely, I suspect that guy.” 

“They were saying the 15-year-old got killed in Ahmed’s car, but he wasn’t,” said Nesri Abdi, Gaari’s 19-year-old sister, referring to Blackmon. But there is no evidence of Blackmon having been a passenger in Badal’s car.

MSR has confirmed that according to Blackmon’s mother Romisha Jones, her son Jaden was definitely inside the wrecked silver car.

Jadon Blackmon

Jones said she has not received answers about who killed her son. She said her son was killed closer to 1 am based on the phone call she received around 1:18 from a relative who told her that her son had been shot.

She believes, based on that call, that her son had been shot earlier before the car crash and the teens he was riding with were taking him to the hospital when they crashed into the Lyft driver’s car. She said the MPD has been in constant contact but they have confused her and her family in their search for the truth.

Police told Jones that they have a 14-year-old suspect who was arrested on May 26 for missing a court date. “They say they have a suspect but are not able to charge him with murder. I don’t understand that or why they told me not to contact the family of Ahmed Badal,” she said.

Surveillance videos

Despite what the chief told the family of Badal, they said police detectives told both families that there was street surveillance at the intersection of the accident and they have secured the video. According to several residents who witnessed the aftermath of the murders and car accident, there was a female police officer in a sedan parked in the bike lane on 28th Avenue who raced to the silver car with what appeared to be a first aid kit.

Police reported that the first officer on the scene was from Metro Transit. It is likely that the officer’s body cam and dash cam would have captured the shooter and any other people or cars involved.

Video footage has proved instrumental in solving many cases, especially in police-involved misconduct. Two years after Louisiana state police killed an unarmed Black man, Richard Greene, a video of his death was finally leaked to the press. The video proves police lied when they said he died from injuries after his car hit a tree. Although no one was charged in the 2019 death, Louisiana state police said publishing the body cam footage of the violent arrest of Greene that caused his death is “premature” and “not authorized.”

 “I just think the details that we do know are awfully suspicious for the police being involved,” said Christine Rangen, Gaari’s midwife. And the fact that they haven’t come forward with any information seems like they’re hiding something. There’s a lot of people that were there, over a dozen witnesses, and nobody knows what happened?” She believes if they were a White family they wouldn’t be treated this way.

“What does it say about our country for his life to be cut down so short and for his widow to be left without answers or even a police report from those who claim to be sworn to protect them?”

Gaari and her late husband Ahmed spent most of their lives in a refugee settlement in Ethiopia. They came to the U.S. on refugee visas in 2015 with their two daughters. Gaari gave birth to four more children since arriving in Minnesota, including their sixth child, a baby named Abdinasir born after Ahmed was killed.

Marjaan Sirdar is a freelance writer and the host of the People Power Podcast. He is a great-grandchild of Black Power icons, the Honorable Elijah and Clara Muhammad of the Nation of Islam.