A man who shot two women in 2016 at an East Side group home where he worked, killing one of them and badly wounding the other, was found guilty Thursday night of a lesser form of homicide, angering and upsetting the family of the young woman he killed.
The jury found Ali Hassan, 26, of Fitchburg, guilty of killing Fatoumatta Jallow, 23, on Dec. 21, 2016, at an REM Wisconsin group home where she worked, but declined to find him guilty of first-degree intentional homicide, which would have brought a mandatory life sentence. He also was found guilty of attempted first-degree intentional homicide for shooting Julie Connors, 32, another group home worker, after she went to investigate gunshots she heard from the home’s basement.
For Jallow’s death, the jury found Hassan guilty of homicide by intoxicated use of a firearm, a felony that carries up to 25 years of combined prison and extended supervision. The attempted homicide conviction carries up to 60 years of combined prison and extended supervision.
“We feel that justice was not done for Fatoumatta Jallow today,” said her stepmother, Essie Jallow, after the verdict was read. “She was cheated out of her life. We’re not sure why the jury found the lesser charge. She didn’t deserve what she got.”
“I’m not happy with the system,” said Jallow’s father, Sankulay Jallow, growing angry as he spoke. “This was not what I was looking for.”
Hassan was also found guilty of three counts of first-degree reckless endangerment, for endangering the lives of three residents of the group home at 5333 Kevins Way, and guilty of attempted arson, for starting a fire in the kitchen of the home, which was extinguished by a Madison police officer who responded to Connors’ call to 911.
Dane County Circuit Judge Josann Reynolds ordered a pre-sentence investigation and will sentence Hassan in about two months.
The jury of eight men and four women deliberated for about six hours Thursday before reaching their verdicts. The trial had been scheduled to last through next week, but testimony went much faster than expected.
In closing arguments, Adam Welch, one of Hassan’s lawyers, again challenged the idea that Hassan had intended to kill anyone, and said that prosecutors had provided no evidence to the jury about what went on at the time of the shootings.
“There’s nothing there that adds up to any intent to kill Fatoumatta,” Welch said. “If they don’t have intent through his words, actions and motives, they don’t have it.”
Hassan did not know Jallow, and as a “floater” for REM, working as needed at their various group homes, he had occasionally worked with Connors. There has been no indication why Hassan shot the women.
Hassan testified in his own defense on Thursday, but said that he had been drinking much of the day and does not remember any events surrounding the shootings.
At the end of his memory gap, he testified, he remembers being handcuffed to a bench at the Madison Police Department East District station. In the meantime, police squad car video showed him confessing repeatedly to the shootings.
On Thursday, Reynolds denied a request by Hassan’s lawyers to allow the jury to consider first-degree and second-degree reckless homicide charges as lesser included offenses to first-degree intentional homicide.
Reynolds said that she heard no testimony during the trial to indicate that Hassan acted recklessly when he shot either of the women.
But Reynolds did allow the jury to consider homicide by intoxicated use of a firearm as a lesser included charge because there was testimony from Hassan and others that Hassan had been drinking. Reynolds also, however, added an instruction to the jury indicating that voluntary intoxication does not negate the ability to form intent under the law in Wisconsin.
Prosecutors argued that the strongest expression of Hassan’s intent to kill was the fact that he shot both women with at least three shots each, fired in rapid succession, all to the chest and abdomen. Assistant District Attorney Valerian Powell urged jurors to question Hassan’s testimony.
“He came into this trial presumed innocent,” Powell said, “but he’s not presumed credible.”
Powell also said that Hassan bought the gun, a small, easily concealable semi-automatic, barely a month before the shootings, supposedly to kill himself, but bought more expensive hollow point bullets. He also bought a new car just a day or two before the shooting, Powell said. Hassan emptied the gun’s seven-round magazine during the shootings, he said.
After the shootings, as police pounded at an entrance to the house from the garage, Hassan fled out the front door, ran to his car and quickly drove off. But he crashed into another car only blocks away. He ran, and police caught him shortly after.
“He was a guy who was trying to get away,” Powell said, “but he botched it.”