The family of the Ottawa man who died of cyanide poisoning in a Denver hotel room is disputing autopsy findings that the man committed suicide, a family spokesman said.
"We believe the ruling (is) absolutely nonsensical," said Omar Jamal, executive director of the U.S.-based Somali Justice Advocacy Center. "It just doesn't add up."
Saleman Abdirahman Dirie, 29, was found dead in room 408 of the Burnsley Hotel on Aug. 11 near a jar of sodium cyanide, the crystallized form of the poison.
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Font:****Denver's coroner released the findings Wednesday night, concluding that Mr. Dirie died of ingesting cyanide and that the manner of death was suicide.
An NBC News report, citing unnamed federal officials, said it's believed Mr. Dirie mixed the sodium cyanide with water and drank it. The report was not confirmed by either the coroner's office or police.
With Monday's opening of the Democratic National Convention in Denver, the mysterious death prompted a brief terrorism investigation by the FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force.
Though sodium cyanide is available commercially and used in industrial processes such as paper-making and gold-plating, cyanide is considered a potential chemical weapon, described by Dr. Mark Keim of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as the "ideal terrorist weapon."
Denver police have since rejected any suggestions Mr. Dirie's death is terrorism-related. It remains unclear where Mr. Dirie obtained the chemical, how much he ingested and how much he possessed.
"We're done with the investigation now that we've got the coroner's results," said Det. Sharon Hahn, adding that police would not be releasing any of the findings.
Mr. Jamal said his organization is filing a complaint with the Colorado Board of Medical Examiners on behalf of Mr. Dirie's family, and he is looking into appealing the coroner's findings.
"We feel that there is insufficient evidence to arrive at the conclusion that he was suicidal," Mr. Jamal said, adding that the findings are nothing more than "sheer speculation."
Monica Sendobal, a communications officer with the coroner's office, said she has never heard of anyone appealing an autopsy at the office in the eight years she has worked there.
Mr. Jamal said neither the autopsy report nor the police investigation explains why Mr. Dirie travelled to Denver in the first place.
"If the intention of Mr. Dirie was to commit suicide, he could have done it in Canada," he said, adding that there are several other questions that remain unanswered, including what the hotel's surveillance cameras show, whether Mr. Dirie had any visitors, whether he had any luggage, where he got the cyanide and how he paid for the room. Mr. Jamal said Mr. Dirie was unemployed.
Initial police reports said Mr. Dirie had been dead for several days when his body was discovered, but the hotel's general manager, Jason Ford, said housekeepers cleaned his room on Aug. 9, less than 48 hours before Mr. Dirie's body was found by hotel staff.
Mr. Jamal said the family is "very interested to find out more about the involvement of the hotel."
Last week, Mr. Dirie's sister told the Citizen her brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia three years ago. She said he was not suicidal and that he had been taking his medication regularly and receiving treatment at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre since he was diagnosed.
With files from Andrew Seymour.
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