Arson suspect assessed as ‘moderate risk’ to community

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LEWISTON — Abdi Ibrahim is capable of “criminal thinking” and is considered a moderate risk to “act out” using fire if released from the Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland.

Ibrahim, who is facing four felony counts of arson in connection with fires that burned four apartment buildings and a garage on Bartlett and Pierce streets in Lewiston on May 3, 2013, is considered a higher behavioral and social risk to the community because of a history of poor social skills and chronic behavior problems in multiple settings, including assaulting others and running away.

And even though he has hidden cigarette lighters in his bedroom and twice been found smoking since he was placed in state custody, a state forensic examination found no specific indication he has “any fascination with fire as a means of acting out.”

Ibrahim will appear in 8th District Court on the morning of Jan. 12 to argue that his arson confession to police be suppressed because an interpreter did not translate his Miranda warning correctly.

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Ibrahim was born in Africa and spent his early years living in a refugee center in Kenya before his family emigrated to the United States. They first settled in Baltimore, Md., moving to Lewiston when Ibrahim was 6 or 7 years old.

The law requires a minor to have parental consent or have a parent present during a police interview, but according to Ibrahim’s attorney, Jeffrey Dolley, Ibrahim’s mother, Marian Ibrahim — who is Somali and not fluent in English — did not have an adequate understanding of the procedure for that interview because the Miranda warning wasn’t translated to her or her son correctly. As a result, her consent was never “given.”

According to court records, Ibrahim was interviewed at the Lewiston Police Department, where he waived his Miranda rights, including his right to remain silent, while his mother was assisted by an interpreter over the phone.

Ibrahim, who is now 14 years old, was 12 at the time of his taped confession.

According to court records, Dolley learned the Miranda warning was incorrectly translated after he had a language expert listen to the audio recording of the police interview.

During that interview, after initially denying he was involved, Ibrahim confessed to setting a fire at the back of a three-bay garage behind an apartment building at 149 Bartlett St. by lighting a cigarette and paper with a lighter, using gasoline as an accelerant.

The teen was initially found not competent to stand trial and the case was suspended while he received emotional and behavioral counseling in residential care at Sweetser Children Services in Saco. In August, the court found him competent to stand trial, and he was transferred to Long Creek Youth Development Center.

At the same time and in preparation for trial, the court ordered the state’s Department of Health and Human Services to conduct a risk assessment of Ibrahim’s behavior, including his likelihood to start fires.

According to that risk assessment, which was conducted in September, Ibrahim exhibits some high-risk behaviors in certain categories but does not demonstrate a significant risk to set fires. Overall, his risk to the community is considered “moderate.”

According to the risk assessment, which is part of the court record, Ibrahim is the third of nine children of Yussuf Ali and Marian Ibrahim. After his family moved to Lewiston, the boy was diagnosed with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder and prescribed Focalin, a stimulant to treat ADHD, about three years before the fires.

When he was charged, Ibrahim was an eighth-grade student at Lewiston Middle School but spent most of his time in special education classes at the Renaissance School in Auburn.

According to the DHHS risk assessment, Ibrahim has a history of exhibiting a low IQ when tested, of emotional “dyscontrol” since early childhood, of being impulsive and aggressive, of significant disciplinary action at school and of hanging out with older teens.

He also has a history of using marijuana, but not alcohol or other drugs, and has had regular contact with police for threatening behavior with a BB gun, shoplifting and the theft of a bicycle.

During his treatment at Sweetser, according to court records, he was “fairly engaged and committed to his treatment,” but also assaulted staff, ran away multiple times, taunted police and shoplifted from stores.

According to evaluations by two counselors, he demonstrated that he had control over his emotions and behavior during treatment, but as he approached the end of treatment and the anticipation of being released, he severely assaulted a staff member, “cheeked” one of his prescriptions, hid three lighters in his bedroom and was twice found smoking.

Although his family attended some counseling sessions, they disagreed with Sweetser staff about the level of supervision the teen required, with both parents telling counselors they found the recommended supervision level to be “unrealistic.”

When counselors went to the family’s home when Ibrahim was released on home visits, they documented a “disturbing level of violence among the siblings in the home,” and the number of home visits were curtailed because “of safety concerns of him being in the community,” according to court records.

According to counselors, when the home visits were allowed after months of residential therapy, Ibrahim exhibited heightened levels of verbal and physical aggression, posturing, threatening, using fire-starting devices, lying and smoking cigarettes. He expressed a desire to “break rules and commit crimes because no one was holding him accountable when he did these acts. He stated he felt above the law and that thought scared him,” according to court records.

And he told counselors at Sweetser that “he would continue to push limits and see what he could get away with until he received ‘a wake-up call.’” Ibrahim told his counselors that even though he was afraid of going to Long Creek, he thought that “would be a wake-up call for him.”

As part of their evaluation, counselors concluded that although Ibrahim was “capable of following rules when he knew he was being watched, he found it easy to get around that at home because he was never held accountable.” They also determined he is more dangerous when he’s angry, is able to think through his behavior, “shows evidence of criminal thinking and broke more rules when he knew he was going home.”

During his interview with a state Forensic Service psychologist, Ibrahim admitted to his poor behavior while at Sweetser, but said when he was released he wanted to focus on school and on his family, and that he wanted to get his driver’s license, get a job and go to college. He also said he would make better choices about his friends, and wanted to play soccer, basketball and football.

When the psychologist was administering a personality assessment test, Ibrahim stopped the exam halfway through and didn’t want to continue. As a result, no personality assessment was produced.

When the court-ordered evaluation was complete, the teen was determined to be a high behavioral risk because of a “chronic pattern of multiple behavior problems in more than one setting,” with a history of aggression, attention deficit-hyperactivity and impulsivity.

And he was determined to be a high social and emotional risk because of poor social skills and a history of being drawn to older “and perhaps more delinquent youth.”

Overall, the state determined Ibrahim is a moderate risk “for potential acting-out behavior that would involve fire in the community,” even though he “consciously chooses” not to use coping skills he acquired during treatment and “gives in to the temptation to act out.”

The state has recommended that Ibrahim be placed in residential care because he needs 24-hour supervision, something that his family did not support and something that the Sweetser Center found difficult to do, even when fully staffed.

In addition to the arson charges, Ibrahim is facing motions to revoke his probation as well as charges of criminal threatening and theft. Court proceedings related to those charges will be held separately from and after the arson charges.

jmeyer@sunjournal.com

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