Supporters of Somali police officer pack courtroom
There wasn’t nearly enough space in a small Anoka County courtroom Wednesday to accommodate more than 80 relatives, friends and Somali community members who came to support Mukhtar Abdulkadir, a Minneapolis police officer accused of hitting his wife with his service revolver while his young son screamed for him to stop.
In another part of the courthouse, Abdulkadir’s wife communicated through her attorney that she wanted to lift a no-contact order barring her husband from contacting her or his children after already recanting the abuse allegation.
Amid those developments, in a twist that surprised everybody in the courtroom, including the judge, came word that Abdulkadir and his wife had been served with a child protection order to check on their two children’s long-term welfare. The two are living with their mother.
Abdulkadir, of Andover, is one of only a few Somali police officers in Minnesota. He is a role model whom kids look up to, said Omar Jamal, former director of the Somali Justice Advocacy Center who was at Wednesday’s hearing. Now, said Jamal, the officer and father who is helping build relationships between the Somali community and police “is being destroyed right in front of us.”
In the courtroom, District Judge Tammi Fredrickson said that she wasn’t thrilled with the timing of the child protection order and that “much of this case is unusual.”
She kept the no-contact order in place regarding his wife, but modified it to allow Abdulkadir to visit his children several times a week at a designated parenting center.
Abdulkadir, 36, who has been on street patrol for a year and a half, has been on paid leave since he was charged in January with felony second-degree assault, terroristic threats and domestic assault. The internal affairs unit of the Minneapolis Police Department is investigating.
According to the criminal complaint against him, Abdulkadir threw his wife on the couch after an argument and punched her in the ribs. As she was screaming, he put a pillow over her head, according to the charges. With his 3-year-old son yelling at him to stop, he grabbed a handgun from a closet and hit his wife in the face with the butt end, the charges said. She did not seek medical treatment.
According to the complaint, she told police her husband had been violent with her in the past and had threatened to kill her.
Several days later, she came to the county attorney’s office and recanted her story, saying she had lied and wasn’t sure how she was injured, the complaint said.
On Wednesday, Abdulkadir pleaded not guilty, a step that usually takes place several hearings down the line. Robert Fowler, his attorney, said Abdulkadir wanted to plead early to signal his intent to fight the charges.
“There are problems with this case,” Fowler said. “The victim has made five statements. How credible is she?”
Earlier, an outraged Ryan Kaess, representing Abdulkadir’s wife, had asked for a recess because he had been served with the child protection order in the previous half-hour. He said that the action was outrageous and that he was greatly troubled that the county attorney’s office would bring a petition against somebody who is a victim.
“Her children haven’t seen their father since he was charged,” Kaess said. “She wants the no-contact order lifted. She’s trying to put her marriage back together.”
The prosecution also learned about the child-protection order during the hearing.
Paul Young, head of the violent crime unit of the Anoka County attorney’s office, said social services had been involved in the case after the allegations came to light.
In arguing to keep the no-contact order in place, he said his office recently received evidence that Abdulkadir hurt his wife in front of one of his children several years ago. Fredrickson agreed she was concerned about future risk to the children.
Fowler also sharply criticized the timing of the child protection order, saying the county attorney’s office was using it as leverage on Abdulkadir’s wife.
“She now faces a choice. If she makes her views known, she might lose her children,” he said. “I’ve never seen the long arm of the law used in such an intimidating way.”
After ruling on the no-contact order, Fredrickson said she understands that Abdulkadir’s wife might feel like she’s being punished, “but I’m not willing to lift the order.”
Star Tribune David Chanen • 612-673-4465