The Death of Riad Hamad

WTF. I am supremely disgusted:

Riad Hamad

According to Austin Police Department Sgt. Joe Chacon, the death of Austin schoolteacher and peace activist Riad Hamad remains under investigation. Chacon says homicide investigators are “open to all possibilities” but that the initial investigation reflects that Hamad appears to have committed suicide. Hamad had been reported missing by his family on Monday night, April 14, and (partly by means of a cell-phone GPS search authorized by his wife) his car was found Tuesday afternoon in a parking lot off South Lakeshore Boulevard, on the south side of Lady Bird Lake. A land and water search turned up nothing more, but a little after 2pm on Wednesday, passersby on the hike-and-bike trail on the opposite (north) side of the lake, just east of the I-35 bridge, spotted a body floating near the shore. Hamad’s eyes were covered in duct tape, his legs and his hands also bound – fueling Internet-amplified rumors that he had been murdered. According to a report that day by KXAN-TV news, “Park-goers who saw the body said the death did not look accidental. They said the man’s face was wrapped with duct tape, and his arms appeared to be tied in front of his body.”

On Thursday, April 17, APD released a statement saying, “The bindings of his hands and legs and placement of the tape were consistent with Hamad having done this to himself.” Chacon told the Chroniclethat additional evidence – including a security videotape of the parking area where Hamad’s car was found and statements from persons who knew him that “he had been experiencing suicidal thoughts” – also support a finding of suicide but that police are waiting for completion of the entire investigation, including the full autopsy and toxicology report, which will take several weeks. “For all intents and purposes, as far as we know right now,” Chacon said this week, “this was a suicide.”

An autopsy was performed by Travis County Chief Medical Examiner David Dolinak, generating yet another controversy over official autopsy procedures. On April 17, when Hamad’s body was transported by a funeral home from the medical examiner’s office to the Islamic Center of Greater Austin on Manor Road, said Imam Ibrahim Dremali, it was in a “barbaric” condition, one that he had never seen in 20 years of preparing bodies for burial. Dremali said the body was seeping blood from one incision and was inadequately sutured, and in spots the flesh was torn as though “an animal might have attacked him.” He said two experienced colleagues working with him “panicked” at the sight of the corpse and left the room, and he had to use towels and tape to clean Hamad’s body and to pad the brain cavity and the torso, in order to make it presentable for burial. Later, he demanded and received a meeting with Dolinak and APD Chief Art Ace vedo. Afterward, Dremali and Dolinak each told theChronicle that they believe the meeting was useful and should lead to better medical examiner practices, but Dremali said he “cannot accept” the apology offered by Dolinak for any misunderstanding or mistakes. “I believe they were sending us a message,” he said, “and that’s what I told the people here [at the mosque], that they believe they do not have to respect the bodies of Muslims.”

Asked about Dremali’s charges, Dolinak said that although there may have been some misunderstanding over his office’s expectation that the funeral home would be doing the final, cosmetic preparations of the body, he insisted, “We did absolutely nothing on our part to show any intentional disrespect.” He said they followed standard autopsy procedures and that he simply can’t say what Dremali may have experienced in similar situations before. “In most cases, all the final preparations [of the body] occur at a funeral home,” he said, “but as in any religion, there is a whole spectrum of practices, depending on the family’s wishes. We’ll certainly try to work with [local Muslim clerics] better on the next case.” Dolinak also could not confirm what Dremali described as apparent facial bruising on the body.

You can read more here.

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