Talk to people about the 19-year-old who was charged with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction Monday, and two very different pictures emerge.
The first is of a student who liked basketball and engineering.
The second is of a young man bent on wreaking the utmost destruction on fellow Americans.
Add to that an allegation of date rape made against Mohamed Osman Mohamud in 2009, and as Kristian Foden-Vencil reports, what emerges is a rather murky picture.
The Caffe D’Arte in Northeast Portland is a hang-out for many Somali Americans. They come here to drink coffee, talk about jobs, kids and the happenings of the day. Not surprisingly, the subject of the hour is Mohamed Osman Mohamud.
Mohamed Mohamed: “He was a good kid. There was nothing out there that could make me say he was heading in that direction personally.”
32-year-old, Mohamed Mohamed is not related to the suspect. But knows his father and saw the teenager at the mosque or playing basketball with his nephews.
Mohamed Mohamed: “At first it was a really scary feeling knowing that something like that could happen in Portland. But at the same time. I have to wait and see the whole story.”
For example, Mohamed says, there are family details that paint a different picture than the one conjured in federal affidavits.
Mohamed Mohamed: “There’s a story that a year and nine months ago his father actually made the first contact to the FBI, letting them know that he has a concern about his son.”
Others talk about a long-term rift between Mohamud and his family — so much so that there’s even speculation his mother was present in the crowd celebrating the start of the Christmas season Friday night.
Speaking outside the courthouse after the arraignment, family friend Saba Ahmed said there’s a lot more information to come out.
Saba Ahmed: “Everyone is innocent until proven guilty. The guy has been framed really badly. I’m really shocked. This is really irresponsible behavior because now the Muslim community is the one who is suffering the consequences of the actions.”
What we know for sure, is that Mohamud’s family fled Somalia in the early 1990s to get away from a violent civil war. His father, Osman Barre, is an engineer who got a job at Intel.
Mohamud attended Jackson Middle School then Westview High. He went on to enroll at Oregon State University in Corvallis. But university spokesman Todd Simmons says the 19-year-old hasn’t attended classes for a month and a half.
Todd Simmons: “He was active as a student for two quarters in fall 2009 and winter 2010 and was very briefly enrolled this fall, although I’m not certain that he took any course work or went to any class meeting.”
Simmons stresses that Mohamud was not enrolled in an accredited degree program. He wouldn’t say what his grades were like and didn’t have much information on his social life.
Todd Simmons: “For someone of his age who’s a formally admitted student to the university, then they often live in student housing. He of course didn’t live in student housing here. They typically might be involved in on campus activities and I just don’t know the extent of anything like that that he was involved in here.”
The Benton County District Attorney’s office had more information, however.
It sent out details of an investigation into an allegation of date rape, made against Mohamud last year.
No charges were filed. But a female student, whose name was withheld by police, reported that she’d been raped after being given a drug.
She told police she’d been drinking and went to a party at the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity house on Halloween in 2009. She said she couldn’t remember anything after tasting something sweet in a drink.
Mohamud told an investigator he’d been drinking that night and that he and the woman left together to go to his dorm room to have sex.
Benton County’s chief deputy district attorney, Christian Stringer, says several people were in the dorm at the time and there was evidence the sex was consensual.
Christian Stringer: “The detective didn’t feel there was sufficient evidence to prove first degree rape. And I reviewed the reports and I agreed with her conclusion and we decided that there was insufficient evidence to move forward.”
Stringer says forensic tests found no evidence of a date-rape drug.
He says Mohamud also admitted to drinking and having sex, and that he didn’t say anything about any strong religious beliefs.
Christian Stringer: “When the investigation was going on Mr. Mohamud was cooperative with the detectives from Oregon State Police. He gave them a statement. He allowed them to submit him to a polygraph.”
As a naturalized citizen from Somalia, Mohamud was known within his community. But Jesse Day, a spokesman for the Islamic Center of Portland, says many people are reluctant to talk.
Jesse Day: “A lot of the people I talk to are acquaintances with Mohamud. But really, I think they’re as shocked as anybody. I’ve been kind of looking around for someone who would talk about Mohamud a little bit and really I think people are staying in stunned silence right now, would be the best way to put it.”
That silence is understandable, especially following the apparent arson attack on the Salman Al Farisi Islamic Center in Corvallis on Sunday.
The FBI thinks the attack may be retribution for the alleged attempted bombing.
The FBI has offered a $10,000 reward for information that leads to the conviction of those responsible for the fire. It has also established a tipline at 541-766-6506.
Mohamed Osman Mohamud’s trial is expected to start in February.