Columbus police confirm that body found Friday in vehicle on North Side was local imam

Yilun Cheng
The Columbus Dispatch
Columbus police Lt. Justin Coleman speaks to a crowd that gathered Friday after a body was found inside a vehicle in a wooded lot at a North Side business. Police have since confirmed that the deceased is Mohamed Hassan Adam, a local imam.

Columbus police confirmed Sunday that a body found two days earlier in a vehicle on the North Side belongs to a local imam.

The body was discovered in a wooded lot at All City Auto Recycling in the 1400 block of Windsor Avenue, and as many as 200 people converged nearby after 3:30 p.m. Friday when news spread within the Somali community that Mohamed Hassan Adam, longtime imam of the Masjid Abu Hurairah mosque on the Northeast Side, had been found deceased inside the vehicle.

Police officially identified the 48-year-old Muslim leader as the victim of the city's 198th homicide in 2021 in a press release Sunday.

There is no evidence at this point that the death was the result of a hate crime, but the investigation is ongoing and still in the very early stages, according to police.

Adam had been missing since Wednesday, according to Hassan Omar, president of the Somali Community Association of Ohio.

According to police, relatives called in a missing persons report around 2:30 p.m. Thursday. The report included Adam's picture and that of the vehicle, a yellow van used to transport children. The word "Students" was on the rear.

Read more: Body of missing leader of Northeast Side mosque believed to be found inside vehicle

Omar and other community leaders put together a search party to look for the missing imam, and on Friday, a volunteer found a body in a van with Adam’s license plate and reported it to the police, Omar said.

“The whole community is in shock, and the family is terrified,” said Omar, who had known Adam for 20 years. “He was a businessman, a leader, a father and a husband. He had a food pantry during COVID-19 to help community members. He was a role model for many young people.”

Imam Horsed Noah, outreach director of the Somali Islamic Centers of Ohio, also praised Adam, whom he said he had known for nearly a decade.

“Mohamed Hassan was someone who would feed the homeless. Mohamed Hassan was the one who would monitor our youth to stay away from drugs, to stay away from gun violence,” Noah said on Friday. “Today, the Somali community lost a pillar.”

According to Islamic customs, a burial should take place as soon as possible after death. Noah said the victim’s family members are hoping to have the burial in about three days but do not know when they would be able to retrieve the body.

Calls to officials with the Franklin County Coroner's office were not immediately returned Sunday.

The body of Mohamed Hassan Adam, the leader of a popular Islamic mosque on the Northeast Side, was found Friday inside a vehicle in a wooded lot at All City Auto Recycling on the North Side.

Meanwhile, Noah said Sunday he would like to see more of a commitment by the police to resolving the numerous homicides experienced by the Somali community.

“We have lost a lot of Somali youth through gun violence, and while we appreciate the police’s collaboration, we feel that they were not so quick to find out who the murderers were,” he said. “We wish they would have a closer relationship with community and faith leaders. We wish that they would have a higher level of cultural competency and get to know our people.”

Read more: Columbus police investigating body found on Christmas Eve as homicide

To recruit the public's help, the Ohio chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations has offered a $10,000 reward for information that might lead to the arrest and conviction of anyone involved.

"Our entire Ohio Muslim community has suffered a profound and tragic loss," said Amina Barhumi, CAIR-Ohio acting executive director. “CAIR-Ohio will be demanding answers and justice, and keeping our community informed of any updates.”

Police are currently investigating the case. Anyone with information is asked to call detectives at 614-645-4730 or Central Ohio Crime Stoppers at 614-461-TIPS.

Women look at the site where the body of Mohamed Hassan Adam, a Columbus imam who had been reported missing, was discovered Friday. Around 200 members of the community gathered at Joyce and Windsor avenues as news spread.

Yilun Cheng is a Report for America corps member and covers immigration issues for the Dispatch. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation at https://bit.ly/3fNsGaZ.

ycheng@dispatch.com

@ChengYilun