The system failed little Abdi Mohamud in life. Now it fails him in death.
His call for help was not heeded. The cry for reform prompted by his brutal killing may not be heard.
When does this kid – whether here or in the hereafter – catch a break?
It is too late to save Abdi. It may not be too late to save others like him. But that happens only if the mistakes that were made with Abdi are not repeated. That happens only if we find out what happened. But we won't find out as long as state officials refuse to release the report on the mishandling of his case.
Abdi was 10 when his stepfather, Ali-Mohamed Mohamud, beat him to death with a rolling pin last April in their East Side home. Bright and resourceful, the boy had tried to use the only defensive weapon at his disposal: the telephone.
A year before he was killed, Abdi called the cops on the monster in the house. He told the 911 operator that his stepfather had been beating him. In a heart-twisting prophecy, Abdi said that it was “a matter of life-and-death.”
The cops went to the house; Erie County Child Protective Services was called. Yet the boy was not taken from the home. The stepfather, a private agency security guard working at The Buffalo News, was not arrested. The case was reportedly referred to an alternative, lower-intensity state program.
Twelve months after Abdi called 911, police found the boy's bound, broken body in the basement. His stepfather was arrested. The requisite “fatality report” was done on how the case was mishandled. The report has not been made public. The state's Office of Children and Family Services – Gladys Carrión, commissioner – is withholding it, citing privacy concerns for Abdi's siblings, ages 6 and 8. If state officials want to cover this up, they should come up with a better excuse. What are they protecting Abdi's siblings from?
Their father, convicted of manslaughter in the boy's killing, is in prison – hopefully for the rest of his miserable life. He cannot hurt his other kids. And more publicity should not matter – the story already has been splattered across the front page.
It seems to me that officials are protecting not Abdi's siblings, but whoever decided that a kid's 911 call was not a send-in-the-cavalry concern.
I want to believe that this boy did not die in vain. We need to know whether the cracks he slipped through can be filled. By hiding behind a bureaucratic wall of silence, state officials only up the odds that something like this will happen again.
Mohsin Abuhamra owns Salam.At Market, steps from Abdi's house. He remembers the friendly boy with the big smile – “a beautiful kid” – who would come in, usually with his mother. He told me that justice will be done only when we know the full story. “You cannot bring him back,” Abuhamra said. “But you should release [the report] for the next kid, before something like this happens again.”
The system is full of holes. Many child-protection workers are young. Case files are piled on their desks. They are overwhelmed, and – up against manipulative abusers – some are overmatched.
But we cannot fix things if we do not know what went wrong.
It is too late to save Abdi. It is not too late to save the next scared, courageous kid. From beyond the grave, Abdi still calls to us.