14 August 2008

Cyanide In Denver

Saleman Abdirahman Dirie, a 29-year-old Somali immigrant to Canada who was a resident of Ottawa, was found dead in his hotel room at the Burnsley Hotel in Denver, Colorado on Monday, 11 August 2008. One pound of sodium cyanide was found in his hotel room. Dirie's cause of death has not been officially determined, but reports of his corpse having a bitter, almond-like smell would indicate that the likely cause of death was cyanide poisoning.

Authorities say that foul play is not suspected in Dirie's death, and that the incident has no apparent connection to terrorism.

A summary of the facts that are currently available:

About Saleman Abdirahman Dirie (source)
• Dirie was a 29-year-old resident of Ottawa, Canada.
• Dirie moved to Canada from Somalia several years ago, and was a Canadian citizen at the time of his death.
• Dirie allegedly took relatives from Ottawa to Toronto in a rental car about three weeks ago.
• Dirie allegedly told relatives about a week ago that he was going to take a vacation to Denver.
• It was reported that Dirie did not have a passport, but the report did not indicate if that meant that he was never issued a passport, or that one was not found on his person or in his possessions at the hotel. (This point may be important because one would need a passport to fly from Canada to the U.S.)
• Dirie died on or around 05 August 2008.
• Dirie's corpse was found in room 408 of the Burnsley All Suite Hotel in Denver, Colorado on 11 August 2008.
• One pound of sodium cyanide was found in a bottle in Dirie's hotel room.
• Dirie's corpse smelled of bitter almonds, which is an indication of cyanide poisoning.
Major events coming-up in Denver
• Dallas Cowboys vs. Denver Broncos at Invesco Field, 16 August 2008.
• Green Bay Packers vs. Denver Broncos at Invesco Field, 22 August 2008.
• Democratic National Convention at the Pepsi Center, 25 August 2008 through 27 August 2008.
• Democratic National Convention presidential candidate acceptance speech at Invesco Field, 28 August 2008.
• Multiple protests by various groups, now through 31 August 2008 (with the heaviest activity during the week of the Democratic National Convention).
Distance from the Burnsley All Suite Hotel to other major locations in Denver
• Colorado State Capitol, estimated driving distance: 0.41 miles (approximately 1 minute by car).
• Sunken Garden Park, estimated driving distance: 0.76 miles (approximately 2 minutes by car).
• Civic Center Park, estimated driving distance: 0.89 miles (approximately 2 minutes by car).
• Pepsi Center, estimated driving distance: 2.07 miles (approximately 6 minutes by car).
• Invesco Field, estimated driving distance: 2.60 miles (approximately 7 minutes by car).

Something else that I have seen in nearly every report about this incident is that cyanide is a common ingredient in rat poison, it is commonly available for purchase, and it is often used in industry for metal work, mining, pest extermination, and medical research. While all of that may be true, it is largely irrelevant due to the fact that it is very unlikely that Saleman Abdirahman Dirie was doing any metal work, mining, pest extermination, or medical research in his hotel room while on an alleged vacation in Denver.

One would think that a dead foreign national, who is also apparently a Muslim, being found with sodium cyanide in a hotel room only blocks away from the State Capitol Building, and about two miles away from the site of the Democratic National Convention two weeks before it begins, would be somewhat alarming. Yet both the authorities and the media seem to be barely interested in this.

I am hoping that the statements by the authorities about this case having "no connection to terrorism" and being "an isolated incident" are just an initial down-playing of the situation to prevent CAIR or other similar groups from drying-up potential leads that could be lost if charges of bias were to be leveled at the various agencies involved. Likewise, I am hoping that the media are not covering this case in-depth because they don't want to hinder the investigation, and/or due to other high-profile stories that are currently demanding resources and press time (e.g. the Russian-Georgian situation).

I will try to keep an eye on this one, though, just in case they don't.


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