In a somber press conference at the Denver Press Club hosted by the Council On American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the family of Makhmud Chariev called for the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office to conduct a more thorough and transparent investigation into their son’s death.
A little under a month ago, on Aug. 23, Chariev’s was body was found near his car, doused in gasoline and burned in Bennett, Colorado.
Chariev was a 19-year-old muslim student interested in computers and had just completed his third day at University of Colorado Denver at the time of his death. His family is worried about the unclear circumstances of his death. More than anything, the family says, they want an explanation so they can get a step closer to closure.
According to Farid Amin, CAIR’s board chair, the group normally functions as a civil rights organization similar to the ACLU or NAACP, but they took an interest in this case because they were concerned that the family had no voice and nowhere to turn to find support.
“The family feels that the police have been dismissive and has, for the first three weeks, concluded that it was a suicide, and its undetermined now. The family, being outraged, thought this was a way out. So they could get the attention of the media and a little bit of pressure on the police department to do its job, so that they know what happened to their child,” Amin said.
Police said that Chariev’s death was at no point classified as a suicide. Suicide is statistically a very unlikely cause of death in this case, according to the Center for Disease Control. In 2016 only 0.4 percent of suicides were a result of self-immolation.
Chariev’s mother, Naila Dautova, is concerned that without a proper investigation, if someone did this to her son, the perpetrators could potentially harm someone else.
“In case what really happened is what I think, then I want [the police] to stop these people, because these people will do it to someone else, they will not stop with my son. If you just think he was burned alive — it’s a horrible way, you know, and these people are monsters. I want to find out not just for my son” Dautova said.
The Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office says the case is still open and they understand the concerns of the family, but they must let the investigation work itself out. Julie Brooks, public affairs manager for the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office, said due to the open nature of the investigation, they can not confirm or deny the statements made by Chariev’s family but asserted they have had ample communication with the family.
“The case is still open and active. It is still an active investigation. It would be inaccurate to say it was ruled a suicide. We are still awaiting the receipt of results of autopsy, awaiting results of any toxicology results,” Brooks said. “As much as we want to provide closure for the family as quickly as possible, we will not compromise our investigations.”
This process has diminished Dautova’s faith in the criminal justice system, which she viewed as impeccable before they moved here from Kyrgyzstan nearly a decade ago.
“I liked America. The thing I liked most in America was people, so I got the false illusional sense that it’s safe in here and the police are protecting people and the law is working,” Dautova said. “That’s why I didn’t — maybe I should have, but I didn’t — teach our kids how to protect themselves, because I saw it as safe compared to where we came from. And this is eye-opening for me. I didn’t expect it at all. We thought the police were going to work and going to help us. At first, I couldn’t believe it, and now I don’t know how to deal with it.”
Amin echoed that statement, noting that he believes it would be fundamentally un-American for justice not to be served in this student’s death.
“If it doesn’t it will be shame for the largest democracy, I would say. … This is the epicenter of the free world and if America does not deliver justice to a family who is in agony and in pain, I’m not sure what country would do that. I believe it’s incumbent upon all of us as lovers of freedom to make sure our justice system works and that our police departments really are trying to bring peace and solace in the hearts and minds of the families and those who lose their loved ones,” Amin said.