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Crash, loss of legs forced two friends to rebuild their lives — again



The call Mahamud Abdisamad got from his friend Wali Aar last month was urgent. Aar’s car battery had died and he needed a jump start.

He grabbed his jumper cables and headed out the door, not knowing that the night’s course of events would upend both their lives.

“I heard a loud noise,” Abdisamad, 34, recalled from that night. “I looked down to see my legs were gone.”

The driver of a third vehicle suspected to be under the influence of drugs slammed into the rear of Aar’s SUV, pushing the two cars together with Abdisamad in between.

The crash severed Abdisamad’s legs, and Aar’s left leg was so badly damaged it had to be amputated.

After fleeing a war-torn country, living in refugee camps and starting new lives in the United States, the two Bloomington men now face a new ordeal — the daunting prospect of extensive rehabilitation, huge medical bills and no income to support their families seven weeks after the gruesome Oct. 12 crash. The men, long accustomed to their own independence, have now been embraced by a community that, in little over a month, raised nearly $8,700. While grateful, both say that the damage to their bodies is only part of their grief, and their attorneys say recouping costs through insurance or the courts may be difficult.

Mahamud Abdisamad said he was sad about his situation, but not angry.

“It’s extremely sad,” says Fathi Gelle, Abdisamad’s sister. “They never needed to ask for help, so this new reality affects them badly.”

Both Bloomington men are married and are the sole breadwinners for their families. Abdisamad has five children, Aar has seven.

“I used to be somebody who worked for my kids, for my wife,” Aar, 35, said at a Bloomington rehab center where he is recovering. “Now I’m confused. I’m sure they are worried to death.”

The two men were born in Somalia, lived in refugee camps in Kenya and came with family members to the United States as teenagers. They worked at a turkey processing facility in Faribault where they met and later at a glass factory in Owatonna. Abdisamad started his own courier company a year ago.

The night of the crash, Aar phoned Abdisamad from Interstate 35W at the 90th St. exit where his Ford Expedition SUV had stalled out. They eventually made it to Penn Avenue, where Aar was connecting the jumper cables and the crash occurred.

Abdisamad knew immediately that his legs were gone, adding “I was trying to save my body.”

Wedged between the two vehicles, he held on to both hoods and pushed himself off to the side.

“I heard this female voice screaming, saying ‘It’s my fault. I killed them,’ ” he said.

He could also hear his friend, Aar, screaming in pain.

Driver appeared impaired

The driver, Mary E. Kridner, 24, of Bloomington, told police she was using marijuana, according to an affidavit filed seeking permission to search her car.

She was arrested on probable cause of criminal vehicular operation but was released and has yet to be charged. Police said she had “pinpoint pupils” and bloodshot eyes, the court document said. Police drew blood from her to test for impairment. Drug paraphernalia inside her car was in plain view, the affidavit said.

Bloomington Deputy Police Chief Mike Hartley said his department is waiting for toxicology results before determining whether and what charges might be filed against Kridner by the Hennepin County attorney’s office. Kridner declined to comment through her father, who cited her attorney’s advice.

Abdisamad has had two major surgeries at Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC), where he was hospitalized for three weeks before returning home.

Aar was unconscious at HCMC for three days. He was examined by several doctors, including specialists from the Mayo Clinic, who concluded that his leg had to be amputated. He remained in the hospital for 28 days.

Aar’s attorney, Jeffrey Jones, said Kridner’s car is under her father’s insurance, which is minimal. It would pay $50,000 each to Abdisamad and Aar, Jones said.

That, plus the insurance each friend had, will hardly begin to cover medical expenses. According to Steve Terry, Abdisamad’s attorney, his preliminary hospital bill for the first six days was $120,000, which does not include all costs. No-fault insurance will cover some, but not enough. A lawsuit may be out of the picture as well.

“The initial indication is that they don’t have enough money to make it worth getting a judgment,” Jones said.

In the meantime, a Go Fund Me page was created to raise funds for both men at

Faced with the difficulties that lie ahead, Abdisamad said he was sad about his situation, but not angry.

“We are Muslim,” he explained. “We believe things happen because of God’s will.”

Because of a minor infection, Aar is still living in a rehab facility where he is learning how to exercise, walk and use crutches and a wheelchair.

On a recent Friday, he wiggled in his wheelchair, scratching the stump of his left leg. He says he is waiting for his limb to heal completely to be fitted with a prosthetic. He has already looked at a few of them.

“I feel like a newborn,” Aar said quietly. “My son is eight months old, I thought I would be teaching him how to walk. Now they are teaching me.” 612-673-4203


randy.furst@startribune. com 612-673-4224 @randyfurst


Minnesota Somali Community Condemning Charges Against Mohamed Noor



WCCO — The Somali-American Police Officers Association calls the charges “baseless and politically motivated, if not racially motivated as well,” Esme Murphy reports (2:28). WCCO 4 News at 5 – March 22, 2018

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Arts & Culture

First-ever Somali exhibit at Minnesota History Center opens in June



STAR TRIBUNE — The Minnesota History Center will throw open the doors to “Somalis + Minnesota” in June, the first long-term exhibit about the east African nation’s culture, heritage and diaspora at the state’s premier history museum.

Minnesota is home to the largest Somali population in the United States, and their stories need to be told, said Steve Elliott, CEO of the Minnesota Historical Society, which operates the History Center. The U.S. Census reports the Somali population in Minnesota at 57,000, though the actual number is believed to be much higher.

“With Somali people in almost every sector of Minnesota’s workforce, now is the time to celebrate the strength and resilience of the Somali people and to help build bridges in understanding what it means to be an immigrant,” Elliott said.

The exhibit is being created in partnership with the Somali Museum of Minnesota, which opened on Lake Street in Minneapolis in 2013.

“We see this as a big honor,” said Osman Mohamed Ali, founder of the Somali Museum. “The Somali community is proud that they will have their stories told at the Minnesota History Center.”

Ali said Minnesotans are curious about their neighbors’ history and that there’s a need in the Somali community to teach the younger generation about their heritage. Many Somalis arrived in Minnesota as refugees fleeing civil war, and families have been more focused on rebuilding their lives than exploring family histories.

“There are a lot of Somalis who don’t know their history,” Ali said. “It will be educational for all Minnesotans — whether they are Somali-Americans or non-Somali-Americans.”

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Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor makes first court appearance; leaves jail after posting $400,000 bond



STAR TRIBUNE — The former Minneapolis police officer charged with murder and manslaughter in the July shooting death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond made his first court appearance Wednesday, where his bail was set at $400,000.

During the hearing, Mohamed Noor said his first public words since the incident in south Minneapolis, spelling his name and confirming his address to Judge Kathryn Quaintance. Noor, slight and soft-spoken, said nothing else during the 15-minute hearing at the Public Safety Facility in downtown Minneapolis.

Quaintance set his bail at $400,000 on the condition that he turn over his passport, surrender his firearms and ammunition and refrain from contacting his former partner Matthew Harrity, the lone witness in the racially charged case that drew international outrage and led to the ouster of former police Chief Janeé Harteau. Bail without conditions was set at $500,000. Noor paid the $400,000 conditional bond and left the Hennepin County jail late Wednesday in the company of his attorney.
Police union officials said that Noor was fired from the department on Tuesday.

Throughout the hearing Wednesday, Noor stood behind a glass partition in an orange jail jumpsuit, wearing a solemn expression. He barely turned to face the packed courtroom gallery, never making eye contact with a group of relatives and friends seated in the front row. Several dozen other supporters huddled in the hallway outside the courtroom.

Noor, 32, turned himself in on Tuesday morning, a day after authorities issued a sealed warrant for his arrest. He is charged with firing his gun from inside his police SUV and hitting Damond, who had called 911 to report a suspected assault in the alley behind her Fulton neighborhood home. Her death provoked protests and became a symbol, in Minneapolis and her native Australia, of how police shootings affect all communities. It also led to Harteau’s firing by then-Mayor Betsy Hodges.

Noor maintained his silence, choosing not to speak to state investigators or the grand jury investigating Damond’s death. The grand jury concluded its probe Monday, the day before Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced his charging decision.

Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Amy Sweasy argued that Noor’s bail should be substantial, saying that he posed a flight risk, and that her office had developed “credible evidence” last fall that Noor had left the country.

The report proved false, but she said prosecutors grew more worried after hearing from a witness who claimed that he had “offered to hide [Noor] out.”

“These are the witness’ words, not mine,” she said.

Noor’s attorney, Thomas Plunkett, said in court that the charges against his client were baseless, while calling the initial $500,000 bail “frankly, outrageous.”

He pointed out that Noor had submitted his DNA to the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension in June for testing, and later voluntarily went to City Hall to meet with an investigator after rumors surfaced that he had left the country.

Plunkett said that Noor posed no risk of fleeing, adding that the former officer came to Minnesota at the age of 5, escaping a civil war in his native Somalia, and had never known another home.

“He has no connection to any other place,” said Plunkett, after waiving a reading of the charges. “Your Honor, Mr. Noor is an American.”

After hearing from both sides, Quaintance offered the conditional bail and set Noor’s next court date for May 8.

“Officer Noor, like any other person charged with a crime in America, is presumed innocent until proven guilty,” Quaintance said. “If he has a trial, it will be in a court of law, not in the media or in the streets.”

Defense attorney Ryan Pacyga said that he was surprised by the prosecution’s high bail request, particularly considering that Noor voluntarily turned himself in and has ties to the community.

He also scoffed at the prosecution’s depiction of Noor as a danger to the public, pointing out that his alleged crime was committed in the course of his duties as a police officer — a profession that is authorized to use deadly force if lives are in imminent danger. “The point is that we’re not talking about some madman, even under the government’s version of this case, that poses some particular danger to the community out there,” Pacyga said.

Jeronimo Yanez, the only other Minnesota officer in recent history charged in an on-duty shooting, was released on his own recognizance. A jury last summer cleared Yanez of any criminal wrongdoing in the shooting death of Philando Castile during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights.

About a month after that verdict, Damond was killed in Minneapolis.

Messages left for Noor’s father went unreturned on Wednesday.

The Somali-American Police Association broke its monthslong silence on Wednesday, saying in a statement that it was “saddened” by what it called politically and possibly racially motivated charges.

We believe Freeman is more interested in furthering his political agenda than he is in the facts surrounding this case,” the statement read. “The charges brought against Officer Noor are not intended to serve justice; rather, they are meant to make an ‘example’ of him.”

An MPD spokeswoman on Wednesday confirmed that an internal probe into the incident was ongoing, but otherwise declined to comment.

Lt. Bob Kroll said claims that Noor plotted to leave the country were news to him.

“He was on administrative leave so he had daily check-ins with [Internal Affairs], I believe,” said Kroll, president of the Minneapolis Police Federation, the union that represents the department’s roughly 880 sworn police officers.

He said they will likely file a grievance on Noor’s behalf to challenge the firing, which is standard practice in disciplinary cases. He said that he wasn’t entirely surprised by the department’s decision to fire Noor, who had been on paid administrative leave since the shooting. “I understand when you’ve got a person facing those charges, there’s a lot of pressure for the administration to get that person off the table, given the public outcry,” he said.

The union has come under fire from critics from both within the department and outside its ranks for not publicly defending Noor.

Noor, who joined the department three years ago, is named in a brutality lawsuit wending its way through federal court. Earlier this month, a judge in that case ruled that an attorney for the woman suing Noor along with another Minneapolis cop and the department was not allowed to ask questions about the Damond shooting.

Staff writers Elizabeth Sawyer and Faiza Mahamud contributed to this report.

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