On Monday, June 26, community leaders and family members of the five young women who lost their lives after being struck by a speeding SUV on the night of June 16, came together for a press conference at Dar Al Farooq mosque in Bloomington. The group called for an independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding their deaths and has reached out to the governor to request a special investigator.
The five young women were close friends—some were related—and are described as pillars of their community by those who were close to them. They were Sahra Gesaade, 20, a student at the University of Minnesota Rochester; Sabiriin Ali, 17, a recent graduate from Edina High School; Sagal Hersi, 19, a student at Minneapolis College; Siham Odhowa, 19, a student at the University of Minnesota; and Salma Abdikadir, 20, a student at Normandale Community College.
After leaving Karmel Mall in South Minneapolis, where they had just finished getting their henna done in preparation for a friend’s wedding, they were struck by Derrick John Thompson, who was speeding in an SUV rental, around 10 p.m. on Friday night. Thompson ran a red light, colliding with their Honda Civic and pinning the vehicle to the wall of a bridge at the intersection of Lake St. and 2nd Avenue.
According to law enforcement officials, Thompson had just rented the SUV less than a half hour before the crash and was driving erratically on 35W, when a state trooper witnessed his maneuvering on the road and decided to follow him. Thompson was allegedly driving at 95 miles an hour in a 55-mph zone.
Officials are not calling this a pursuit but believe that Thompson was impaired. A toxicology report has not yet been released. Minneapolis police spokesman, Adam Kennedy, stated that the trooper was not close enough to stop Thompson, which is why he did not turn on his siren.
At Monday’s press conference, Jaylani Hussein, the executive director of the Council of American Islamic Relations Minnesota, stated that there’s information still missing in relation to the death of the victims and that an outside investigation is necessary to get to the truth.
“As I heard from the families, this is a pain that they hope will never be brought forth to any family in our state, in our country. That is why we believe it’s important in this moment to ask for an outside independent investigation into this case that will help us get answers,” he stated. “We are in the business of making sure that there’s clarity. But we also understand that based on the history of law enforcement investigating law enforcement, that that’s not usually the best way of addressing any situation.”
Hussein referred to a recent chase that resulted in the death of a six-year-old in Brooklyn Center as an example of how improper procedures from law enforcement could lead to unnecessary deaths.
Law enforcement reported that officers found a loaded handgun in the rental along with MDMA (ecstasy), 2000 fentanyl pills, and cocaine. After crashing his SUV into the five young women, Thompson fled the scene and was found bleeding in a Taco Bell parking lot and taken in for medical care. Toxicology results for Thompson are still pending.
On June 22, Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty charged Thompson, 27, son of former state house representative, John Thompson, with 10 counts of criminal vehicular homicide. He received two counts for every victim. Bail was set at $1 million. The U.S. Attorney’s Office also announced three federal counts in relation to drug trafficking and illegal gun possession. The MSR reached out to former state Rep. John Thompson, but did not receive a response.
According to previous reports, Derrick John Thompson was sentenced to eight years in prison in 2020, after fleeing from police in California and hitting a pedestrian with his car. The woman sustained severe injuries and was in a coma for two months, with medical bills of more than $2 million dollars. He was released early from prison in January of 2023, despite having similarly fled the scene of an accident in California.
As more information is shared, family members of the five young women are searching for clarity and a sense of justice. Given Derrick John Thompson’s past and his early release, the victims’ families and community leaders are concerned that he might get off easy.
At the press conference, family members of the young women gave statements in remembrance of their loved ones. Sundus Odhowa spoke about her sister and the immense loss her family is experiencing.
“My sister was the pillar of our family. She had a promising future and was pursuing a computer science degree at the University of Minnesota. While many knew her as a reserved and quiet individual, to me, she was the funniest person I knew,” she said. “It breaks my heart that I won’t witness her getting married and graduating from college and growing old with her.”
Abdulahi Farah is a board member and leader at Dar Al-Farooq mosque. Having been close to the families of the young women, he spoke to the impact that they made in their local community.
“This was their home away from home. This was their hangout spot. This was their rec center, this very gym, and their spiritual sanctuary,” Farah said at the press conference on Monday. “We appreciate the support from our community leaders, officials, and acknowledge the tremendous turnout that we had for their funeral, which is the largest public funeral in our community’s history.
“We thank all those people who took part in that and who made it possible. But moving forward, it is our collective responsibility to honor their memories by advocating for justice for them, and to ensure that their legacy is always remembered.”
On the night of the tragedy, Farah and other community leaders flocked to the scene of the incident and stayed up with families to console and spiritually counsel them. He shared that he and other mosque leaders reached out to mental health experts for guidance on how to help members of their congregation grieve the loss of the five friends.
The mosque held a fundraiser for the victims a week after their deaths, to help ease the loss for their families and pay for future legal fees related to an investigation. Currently, an online fund has raised nearly half a million dollars for all five families.
Farah and other mosque leaders had reached out to the organizers of Launch Good, a Muslim crowdfunding platform, to get the word out about this tragedy. Islamic leaders from around the country took to their platforms to share the fund.