Ten days after a 22-year-old man was shot and killed, his family has hired a lawyer to investigate the Portland Police Department’s handling of the case, according to Essence magazine.

Isahak Muse, a Deering High School graduate, was shot and killed in a home in the Riverton neighborhood in the early hours of March 16. Police have not made any arrests or released any new details since the day of the shooting, when they said there was no danger to the public. Questions remain about who fired the gun that killed Muse, who else was present and what Muse was doing at the home on Milton Street that night.

Lawyer Justin A. Moore told Essence that the family hired him to give them guidance and scrutinize the police investigation. He raised new allegations about a connection between Portland police and the family living in the home where Muse died, something police officials said has not influenced the case.

“With the mysterious nature in which the department has avoided providing Isahak’s family details about his murder, the fact that one of the residents of the home where Isahak’s life was taken served as an intern for the Portland PD, also the fact that one of the residents of the home where he died was rushed to a mental hospital after they expressed a desire to provide a statement as to what happened that night and the rapid rise of anti-Muslim extremism in this country, the longer Isahak’s family does not receive answers for his death, Portland PD’s lack of transparency deserves intense scrutiny. My office will zealously seek out justice for this grieving family and aid in providing the scrutiny that Portland, Maine PD deserves, due to fetters of their own forging,” Moore told the magazine. Essence, a national news and culture magazine for African-American readers, posted the article Tuesday.

Moore appears to be based in Texas and is not registered with the Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar. He did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

City property records show the house where the shooting happened is owned by Mark Cardilli Sr. No one has responded to attempts to contact the family through a phone number listed for Cardilli or by leaving a note at the home.

The mention of a connection to the police department apparently refers to a family member’s involvement with a youth organization that helps students explore careers, in this case law enforcement careers.

Isahak Muse

A photograph in the Portland Police Department’s 2012 annual report includes a teenager named Mark Cardilli, who was identified in the caption as a member of police Explorers Post No. 2671. Police lawyer BethAnne Poliquin said she did not know how long he was involved in that program, and that Explorers post has since been dissolved.

Acting police Chief Vern Malloch said Tuesday that the younger Cardilli’s involvement in the police Explorers program has not impacted the investigation.

“That’s the extent of any involvement the police department has had with anybody that resides at that house,” Malloch said. “No one there has been an intern or a police cadet or a police employee.”

The victim’s sister, Awo Muse, also spoke with Essence about her frustrations with the investigation. The family has made limited public comments about the case, but Awo Muse told the magazine that they have received little information from the police.

Awo Muse told the magazine that her brother was dating a girl who lived in the house with her family. Muse also said she be believed there was an altercation with a family member.

“He got murdered in a home where he trusted these people, and they were the last people to see him,” Awo Muse told the magazine. “They are still alive walking, eating, sleeping, and he doesn’t get any of those chances. My family is devastated.”

Awo Muse did not respond to a request for additional comment Tuesday.

The police chief reiterated Tuesday that he is not able to release more information about the case. However, he said a victim’s advocate has been in regular contact with the Muse family for more than a week, and the department has shared what details it can with Muse’s relatives.

Malloch said the department has told the family what the public also knows — Muse was a guest in the home that night, the shooting resulted from an altercation and forensic testing could take weeks. He has also said the police have interviewed everyone who was in the home that night, but he cannot release the names of those witnesses.

The chief said no attorney for the family has contacted the department. Malloch also said he is not at liberty to release medical information and could not say whether anyone involved in the case had been rushed to a hospital.

“What I can say is that we’re very sympathetic toward the (Muse) family and the loss that they’ve suffered,” Malloch said. “I can say that the characterization that we haven’t released any information to the family is unfair. … We’re being as transparent as we can be with any ongoing criminal investigation, especially one of this magnitude.”

Forty members of the Muslim community met with Malloch and other Portland officials last week in the local mosque to ask questions about the case and express their fear that Muse’s killing was a hate crime. Malloch also told them he could not disclose any facts about the case, but he promised that the department is conducting a thorough investigation.

“We will have one shot at charging someone, holding them accountable and going to trial,” Malloch said. “We’ve only got one shot. And if we miss something in the investigation, if we do something wrong, if we rush, we jeopardize the case.”

Two people spoke at the meeting about a relationship between Muse and a girl who lived in the house, but the chief did not confirm that.

“That’s the reason why we can’t discuss things that you all, quite frankly, know, that you’ve heard,” Malloch said at the meeting. “I can’t have that conversation with you because I don’t want to jeopardize the case.”

Maria Haberfeld, a professor in the Department of Law, Police Science and Criminal Justice Administration at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, said that the thousands of police departments across the United States have differing procedures for releasing information to families of victims and to the public.

Haberfeld said she could understand a wariness by police to release information when there is suggestion of a racially motivated crime.

“If there is a possibility of a hate crime, the chief of police might want to withhold information until they find out if their suspicion is justified,” Haberfeld said.

The sooner that investigators can release information the better, she said, but there are caveats. If information would compromise the work of police, waiting can be the only choice.

“Sometimes this interferes with the investigation, and you do need to withhold info for a reasonable period of time,” she said. “What is reasonable? There is no gold standard. Sometimes it’s a couple of days, sometimes it a couple of weeks. And it depends on how the department handles it.”

Related Headlines

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: