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NH wedding parking-lot brawl traces back to Ohio street gang grudges

New Hampshire Union Leader

May 07. 2018 12:23PM

CONCORD — The parking-lot melee at the end of a Concord wedding — a chaotic event that included gunshots, fist fights and terrified guests fleeing into the woods — involved grudges and a street gang in the Columbus, Ohio, area, according to police investigating the April 22 event.

But two weeks after the Somalian wedding at the Bektash Temple in Concord, police said they don’t have an exact explanation for what happened. They are working with their counterparts in Columbus, home to one of the largest pockets of resettled Somalians in the country, to try to unravel what happened.

Meanwhile, two of four people arrested in light of the shooting have raised bail and left the Merrimack County jail. The other two, arrested on a more serious charge of reckless conduct with a firearm, remain behind bars. And Concord police said cooperation “has not been the best” among many of the guests.

“All we can say right now there was a grudge between factions in this group,” said Concord police Lt. Sean Ford. “These guys are definitely part of street gangs (in Columbus),” he said.

But the reason for the grudge isn’t clear.

Police in Columbus said several factors have come into play in the rise of Somalian-dominated street gangs:

• Somalians don’t forget tribal animosities just because they move to the United States, and at one point Columbus tracked 10 to 15 clans with histories of grudges and shifting alliances, said Khaled Bahgat, the new American diversity/inclusion officer for Columbus police. He added that those animosities seemed to have calmed in recent years.

• Refugee families settle in inner-city communities, where youths find role models among street criminals. Recently, some Somalians have been robbing Columbus pharmacies and engaging in drug trafficking, Bahgat said. “Some, unfortunately, follow the path of whatever environment they’re in. Once they take that road, they become very bold. They feel like nobody can touch them,” he said.

• When younger family members succumb to the lure of street crime, their strict, fundamentalist parents and older relatives shun them, which pushes them further toward delinquency, Bahgat said.

He stressed that not all Somalian families succumb to such trouble, and Somalians have opened their own businesses in Columbus, and part of a local mall caters to the community.

Efforts to reach leaders of the Somalian community in Manchester were unsuccessful.

‘It was chaos’

Authorities have said that the four people arrested that night weren’t invited to the wedding.

Police uncovered two spent .38-caliber shell casings and an unfired .30-caliber bullet.

“When I say it was chaos, it was chaos,” Ford said. Arriving officers were unable to control the crowd. Some were fighting, some were running, and others were insisting that someone had been shot and ran into the woods, he said.

Ford said that police believe that the four people arrested were part of a larger group who arrived to cause trouble. The rest were able to get away.

“There was some beef (between the groups) but I don’t know what it was,” Ford said. He said some people who witnessed the riot have been cooperative, but those who were more involved have not answered questions..

The two arrested on a felony riot charge — Ali Dahir Hussein, 20, of Columbus and Abdi Soman Mohamed, 18, of Erie, Pa. — made $2,000 bail and have been freed pending a future trial. The two with charges of riot and reckless conduct with a firearm — Jafar Kahalid Issak, 19, of Columbus and Salim Hussein, 22, of Nashville, Tenn. — were still being held on $10,000 bail at the Merrimack County jail as of Sunday night.

Bad timing

The Bektash Temple had rented its function space for the wedding, said Guiod “Bushie” Hill, the recorder for the Temple.

He said the rental included use of the kitchen, stage and portable dance floor. Hill said the wedding couple may have been from New Hampshire — records were not available at the time of the interview — but the people who leased the hall were from out of state. Most of the cars parked in the lot were from out of state, too, he said.

The party said alcohol would not be served, but many empty containers were found in the woods, Hill said.

He said the melee might never have happened if the celebration had ended at midnight as scheduled. But the disc jockey for the event had been pulled over for speeding and arrived late. The Temple agreed to remain open until 1 a.m. because the dancing started late.

“Call me lucky,” Hill said.

“There’s no excuse for what happened,” said Hill, who expressed apologies to neighbors. Hill said people were still coming out of the nearby woods the following morning. He said the agreement called for them to clean up, but that never happened.

“They just got in their cars and left as quickly as they could,” he said. They won’t, he said, get back their $350 deposit.

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