Police seek additional suspect in death of Columbus imam

AP News

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Authorities say at least one more person is being sought following the arrest of a suspect in the shooting death of an Ohio religious leader last year.

Mohamed Hassan Adam, a longtime imam at Masjid Abu Hurairah mosque on the northeast side of Columbus, was found dead of multiple gunshots in a van on Dec. 24, two days after he went missing during a trip to pick up a child from day care.

John W. Wooden Jr., 46, of Columbus was arrested Feb. 18 and later charged with murder in the case, according to Franklin County court records. Police said ballistics tests linked a gun found in his house to the slaying.

Detective Earl Westfall, the lead investigator, said Friday that he believes at least one other person and perhaps more were involved in the killing, and the investigation is not over, the Columbus Dispatch reported.

Westfall said Wooden and Adam are believed to have been involved in a business transaction, about which he declined to provide details, and had minimal prior contact before the slaying. He said there was no indication that Adam was targeted because of his faith or because he was a member of the Somali community.

The Ohio chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations announced last week that an additional $10,000 in reward money had been collected by community leaders. The organization and its national headquarters earlier announced $10,000 for information leading to arrest and conviction, and said the reward now totaled $20,000.

Adam’s daughter, Shukri Hassan, called Thursday, the day family members learned of the arrest, a good day in a difficult time, the Columbus Dispatch reported.

“I hope that we receive justice,” she said. “We cannot sit down and sit back until that time.”

Family members and people from the communities he served began a search for Adam, ultimately finding his body, and several hundred members of the Islamic and Somali communities then gathered to mourn and pray as police investigated, the paper said. Hundreds also gathered later for his funeral.

Wooden also faces a federal charge of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Court documents don’t list a defense attorney in the state case and a listed phone number for the defendant couldn’t be found Sunday.

Kevin Durkin, lead defense attorney in the federal case, cited a prohibition on attorneys releasing information or opinions “that might interfere with a fair trial or otherwise prejudice the due administration of justice.” He said his client “is working with his attorneys to defend himself against these very serious charges.”