More than 200 East African immigrants tried to squeeze into back-to-back Hennepin County court sessions Friday for two teenage Somali boys facing murder charges in the shooting deaths of three men last week at a Seward neighborhood store.
More than half those who came to support the families of the victims and the defendants had to wait outside as Mahdi Hassan Ali, 17, and his friend, Ahmed Shire Ali, 17, appeared before a judge for the first time since the Jan. 6 shootings at the Seward Market and Halal Meats in south Minneapolis. (The teenagers are friends and not related.)
During separate hearings, District Judge Gary Larson set bail at $3 million for each.
Mahdi Ali was the alleged gunman in what authorities have described as a robbery turned fatal. Ahmed Ali allegedly confined two people to the back of the store while his friend robbed and shot the men up front, according to a criminal complaint.
The hearings, which lasted no more than 10 minutes each, began a process that could result in life in prison without release for the teenagers if convicted of first-degree murder.
According to the complaint, the two entered the market at E. Franklin and 25th avenues shortly after 7:30 p.m. wearing ski masks.
Mahdi Ali allegedly pointed a gun at two men behind the front counter and shouted “This is a robbery.” Within minutes, three men were dead. Slain were store employee Abdifatah Warfa, 28, his cousin, Mohamed Warfa, 30, who had stopped to visit, and Anwar Mohammed, 31, a customer. The Warfas were Somali. Mohammed was Oromo.
In court, Ahmed Ali, dressed in an orange jail suit, appeared first. With his lawyer, Paul Edlund, nearby, the gangly youth looked nervously around the courtroom. After stating his name and address, he sat behind a wall and glass window. Edlund declined to argue against the prosecution’s request for $3 million bail.
Ahmed Ali’s next court appearance was set for 1:30 p.m. Feb. 17 before Judge Mark Wernick.