EVANSTON — In an emotionally-charged hearing in Third District Court on Thursday, April 25, family members of Abideen Musa tearfully thanked members of the Evanston Police Department for the professionalism displayed during a November incident in which Abideen and his older brother Akeem were arrested.
The incident occurred in the early morning hours of Nov. 11, 2018, when EPD Sgt. Justin George initiated a traffic stop for a vehicle that failed to yield at the intersection of Front and 2nd streets, nearly colliding with George’s patrol vehicle. During the stop, George noted the odor of marijuana coming from the vehicle and called for backup.
Additional officers arrived on scene and Abideen, who was driving, and Akeem were asked to exit the vehicle, which they refused to do. After a several-minute confrontation, responding officers opened the doors of the vehicle to forcibly remove the men, when Abideen began to drive away while Officer Nikoli Knezovich, Officer Zachary Marler and George were still in physical contact with the two men.
Knezovich and George were able to get clear of the moving vehicle; however, Marler was unable to get clear and was forced to run alongside the car as it accelerated and entered the Interstate 80 on-ramp. Eventually, Marler was able to put his foot on the brake and stop the vehicle, at which point the men were ordered out of the vehicle at gunpoint.
A search of the vehicle yielded approximately 25 pounds of marijuana, along with paraphernalia, empty plastic bags, a machete and a firearm.
Marler was taken to Evanston Regional Hospital for evaluation. While no fractures were sustained, he did suffer from multiple contusions and painful injuries.
Both men were charged with felony interference with a peace officer for knowingly causing bodily injury to Marler, along with felony possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver. Abideen, the driver, was also charged with fleeing or attempting to elude police officers.
Akeem entered into a plea agreement with the Uinta County Attorney’s Office in February, entering a plea of no contest to the charge of interfering with a peace officer and a guilty plea to the possession charge. He was sentenced to four to six years of incarceration for each offense, with the sentences to run concurrently.
During Abideen’s hearing last week, he changed his original not guilty pleas to a plea of guilty to the charges of interfering with a peace officer and attempting to elude a peace officer and a plea of no contest to a reduced charge of possessing a controlled substance as part of a plea agreement with the Uinta County Attorney’s Office. The plea agreement would call for a sentence of two to six years for the interfering with a peace officer charge and one to three years for the possession charge, to run concurrently. There would be additional financial penalties of $5,000 for count one, $2,000 for count two and a $750 fine for the eluding charge.
In court, Abideen said he panicked during the traffic stop and started to drive away and admitted he continued to drive even after being told to stop.
District Court Judge Joseph Bluemel indicated he would not make a decision on accepting the plea agreement until a sentencing hearing, set for 9 a.m. on July 25. Although the decision on sentencing is still several months away, Abideen’s attorney, Tammy Fields, said several of his family members who had flown in from Texas, Chicago and Alaska wished to address the court, which Bluemel allowed.
Abideen’s mother said her son is the type of person who would do anything for anybody, including helping out his older brother Akeem, who had a significant criminal history prior to this incident. She said her older son took advantage of his younger brother and asked the court to please show mercy to Abideen, who has three young children at home in Texas, including a 4-year-old child with significant medical issues.
Abideen’s father, who came to the U.S. from Nigeria in the early 1970s and earned a master’s degree from DePaul University, said Abideen is a good son who has always wanted to help others, including spending time working in Nigeria. He, too, said he is concerned about Abideen’s children and asked for mercy for his son.
Abideen’s three other brothers, two of whom are physicians and the other an engineer, also addressed the court. Through tearful statements, they thanked the Evanston Police Department officers for demonstrating professionalism and restraint during the incident when there was reason to use lethal force, saying if such an incident had happened in other communities their brothers would have been shot and likely killed. One of the physicians, an anesthesiologist who also specializes in pain issues, offered his services free of charge to any of the officers who might be suffering as a result of the incident.
The three also took a moment to apologize for their brothers’ behavior, saying that isn’t how they were raised, and it hurts to have their family name associated with this incident. The men described their parents as humble, hard-working people who never broke the law, and who raised five black sons in a close-knit family on Chicago’s South Side.
The Musas all described their family as one that gives and shares and painted a picture of Abideen as a tender-hearted person who felt for and wanted to help his older brother, Akeem, described as the one member of the family who has struggled with multiple entanglements with the criminal justice system.
Bluemel said he appreciated the acknowledgements about incidents that have occurred in other parts of the country and agreed that in many other locations the brothers would have been shot. Bluemel said he will remember and consider all the statements made by the Musa family and said, “You have given me a picture of a family you should be proud to be a part of.”
Abideen will remain out on bond until his sentencing hearing on July 25.