Des Moines Police Say Video, Phone Records Prove No Foul Play in Death of Abdi Sharif

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DES MOINES, Iowa (WHO) – The Des Moines Police Department says it has completed its investigation into the death of Abdullahi ‘Abdi’ Sharif and there is no evidence of any criminal act.

Sharif disappeared on January 17 after leaving work at his job at Merle Hay Mall. His body was recovered from the Des Moines River near Prospect Park on May 2nd.

In the days and weeks after Abdi disappeared, massive search parties were held to comb the area near his home but no signs of him were found. That included searches on foot and by air via drone in the Prospect Park area.

Police say they spent more than 1,000 man-hours investigating his disappearance. During their interviews, they learned that Abdi had expressed suicidal thoughts in the past.

On Wednesday, Des Moines Police released a lengthy narrative that pieces together Abdi’s final hours before he went into the river. Police say video from a DART bus and cell phone tracking information show Abdi took a bus from Merle Hay Road to a bus stop in the 3300 block of MLK Parkway. From there, Abdi walked North, then East to the Euclid Avenue bridge over the Des Moines River.

Police say that during this walk, police say Abdi’s phone shows he called family members twice. One family member said they couldn’t remember what Abdi said during the call.

A short time later police say Abdi stopped on the bridge, took a picture of the water below him, and was uploading that photo to his Instagram account when his phone died. Police say all evidence points to the fact that Abdi either took his own life or accidentally fell into the river.

The complete narrative released by Des Moines Police follows:

Des Moines Police Department detectives have completed their investigation into the
disappearance of Adullahi “Abdi” Sharif. Below is a summary of the investigation that includes new details.

Sharif was last seen on 17 January 2020. He was reported missing to the Des Moines Police
Department on 18 January 2020. His body was discovered in the Des Moines River, near Prospect
Park, on 02 May 2020.

During the investigation, detectives worked tirelessly to locate video evidence, digital evidence,
potential witnesses, and gather background information. Well over 1,000 hours were dedicated to
following investigative leads. In addition to canvassing the area for leads, grounds searches were
done along the suspected path that Sharif traveled, as well as the wooded areas near the Des
Moines River. Environmental conditions did not support a river search, however visual inspections were done. Throughout the investigation these searches were repeated.
Early in the investigation, detectives learned from Sharif’s family that as early as November 2019 he had, more than once, expressed thoughts of harming himself. Detectives also learned that Sharif had been secretive about his movements, and his family had discovered apparent conversation between Sharif and others regarding minor illegal activities, and he was experiencing other personal struggles.

Interviews with friends and associates of Sharif provided investigators with information that there were rumors that Sharif was hiding and staying with unknown friends at unknown locations. These leads, and others that indicated that Sharif was a victim of foul play, were thoroughly investigated as they came in and all were ultimately found to be false. Detectives were able to obtain cell phone tower data which provided a very general look at Sharifs movement as he traveled east from Target. The last “ping” from the phone was in the area of the Euclid Avenue bridge over the Des Moines River.

Detectives spoke with Sharif’s father who resides in Canada. He indicated that he had not spoken
with Sharif for approximately a week prior to his disappearance.

On 30 January 2020, detectives requested the technical assistance of the Federal Bureau of
Investigation (FBI). The Polk County Medical Examiner determined that Sharif had no traumatic injury to his body that would indicate an assault or other deliberate harm had come to Sharif prior to his death. His clothing, weather/water damage excluded, showed no signs of a struggle with another person. When Sharif was recovered from the river, his cell phone was also recovered. That phone was turned over to the FBI for forensic examination. On 23 July 2020, detectives received the results of that examination.

During the first week of the investigation, detectives requested a review of Des Area Regional
Transit (DART) bus video. Detectives requested a specific time frame and distance from the last
confirmed sighting of Sharif as he left the mall. A review of that video found no evidence of Sharif
boarding a bus.

Reviewing the data provided by the FBI, it was noted that it appeared Sharif began to move at the
speed of a vehicle approximately 12 minutes after leaving Target. This information was shared
with DART, who adjusted the scope of the search and was able to find video of Sharif bordering a
bus further east on Douglas Avenue. Sharif boards the bus alone and has no interaction with
anyone throughout the length of the video. Due to the parameters requested on the original
search, there is no video of Sharif exiting the bus.

The phone data recovered by the FBI provides a detailed timeline as Sharif travels eastbound on
Douglas Avenue and then south on MLK, Jr Parkway. At 5:33 pm, the bus GPS and Sharif’s phone
GPS both “ping” at a bus stop in the 3300 block of MLK, Jr Parkway. From that point, the bus
continues south and Sharif moves north.

The data shows Sharif begins to walk eastbound on Euclid Avenue from MLK, Jr. Parkway at 5:36
pm. During this walk, Sharif accesses multiple apps on his phone and makes to calls; one a
FaceTime and one a phone call, to family. When asked about this discovery, a family member
confirmed participating in these calls but could not recall the content of the call.
At 5:43 p.m., Sharif is on the Euclid Avenue bridge over the Des Moines River. During that same
5:43 p.m. minute, Sharif takes a photograph of the river below him. At 5:44 p.m., Sharif opens his Instagram account. It is believed that he begins to upload the photograph. Also at 5:44 p.m., the phone stops providing data.

Reviewing evidence acquired in this investigation, it is believed that Sharif jumped from the bridge committing suicide, or accidentally fell from the bridge. There is no evidence of any criminal act.

Sgt. Paul Parizek, Des Moines Police Department

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