Six hours after Abdalla “AJ” Jama was conditionally released from the King County Jail following an arrest for misdemeanor assault, he is accused of beating a 62-year-old man so severely that a witness told Seattle police he was certain the man was dead, according to King County prosecutors.
Jama, who is also known by the first name “Ardalla,” was charged Wednesday with first-degree assault, with prosecutors alleging two aggravating circumstances: that the victim’s injuries were more severe than “great bodily harm,” which is required to prove the first-degree assault charge, and that the victim was particularly vulnerable or incapable of resistance.
Should Jama, 29, be convicted of first-degree assault and the aggravators are proven beyond a reasonable doubt, a judge could potentially impose a sentence above the standard range, according to state law.
Jama was arrested just after 2:30 a.m. Sunday in Courthouse Park — also known as City Hall Park — about five hours after punching the 62-year-old unconscious, then repeatedly kicking the man and stomping on his head in the park, charging papers say. The green space is located to the south of the downtown King County Courthouse and covers the block between Third and Fourth avenues, just north of Yesler Way.
Jama remains jailed in lieu of $500,000 bail, court and jail records show.
“The defendant in this case punched a 62-year-old man, knocking him down. Once the man was down, the defendant took the time to remove a jacket and backpack, and then began to kick and stomp the man into a bloody pulp,” Deputy Prosecutor Aubony Burns wrote in the charges. “The kicks were so forceful and loud the witness could hear them from inside a car. … The witness was sure he had just seen the victim killed by the defendant, telling officers, ‘That dude’s dead.'”
The charges only say the assault was the result of an argument and do not provide further information about a possible motive.
Court records do not yet indicate which attorney is representing Jama. Charging papers note he has prior criminal convictions in Colorado, including three convictions for second- and third-degree assault, the last one from 2014. Jama, who is homeless, has been arrested in Seattle five times this year; with the exception of his most recent arrest for first-degree assault, all of his other arrests were for misdemeanor crimes, jail records show.
According to the charges:
The Seattle police detective in charge of the assault investigation noted Courthouse Park and the area surrounding it are frequent scenes of violence, property damage, illegal camping, drinking and narcotics activity. During previous investigations, police officers have encountered general distrust and a reluctance for people to cooperate in providing information.
Just after 9 p.m. Saturday, two people — including the man who witnessed the assault from inside a car — called 911 to report the beating. Several officers responded and found the 62-year-old man face down on the sidewalk in a pool of blood: He was unconscious, unresponsive, and his breathing was shallow.
The man was taken to Harborview Medical Center with life-threatening injuries, which doctors later told police included a severe scalp laceration that left portions of his skull visible, bleeding in the brain, a broken nose, eye socket and forehead, multiple broken ribs and internal injuries.
On Wednesday, the man was to be moved out of the intensive-care unit and his condition upgraded to satisfactory, said hospital spokesperson Susan Gregg.
He remained in satisfactory condition as of Thursday evening.
The charges against Jama say police contacted many people who witnessed the beating but who declined to get involved or only provided “slivers” of information to help officers identify the assailant. Among the witnesses were four men living in a blue tent, who provided officers with a suspect description, and a couple of them said the same suspect had hit their heads before attacking the 62-year-old.
Two hours after police completed processing the assault scene for evidence, officers who had responded to a call nearby heard a loud disturbance at the park and walked over to see what was going on. There, they recognized the four men from the blue tent and a fifth man who matched the suspect description in the earlier assault.
Police say they contacted and identified Jama, who told them he’d been in an earlier fight before he was placed under arrest. Officers seized his boots as evidence because they noticed several spots of freshly dried blood on them, say the charges.
After being interviewed by police, Jama was taken to the jail, where jail staff called out to him by name, the charges say. That’s when officers realized Jama had been arrested. He spent about 14 hours in jail before his release Saturday afternoon, according to the charges.
Jama is to be arraigned Jan. 13.