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Case reopened after father spends a year pressing for his son's autopsy to be reviewed

Zamien Aleman told a 911 dispatcher that people were trying to rape him. He was found dead when officers arrived but his death was initially ruled a suicide.

HOUSTON — The Houston Police Department is taking a second look at the circumstances surrounding a teen’s death last year.

The department reopened 15-year-old Zamien Aleman's case after the Harris County Medical Examiner’s Office reversed his autopsy results. The initial autopsy determined Zamien died from suicide.

His father, Felipe Aleman, has been fighting for authorities to take a second look at his son's death because he believes his son was murdered.

Photos of Zamien’s childhood depict a life surrounded by family and friends. Felipe said his son enjoyed spending time at the park and even taught himself to ride a skateboard. He described him as a typical teenager.

"The way he would act around me ... he was kind of a little hard-headed, but he would just do things, be goofy around me, and he loved playing his video games. What kid doesn’t?" Felipe said.

But on Jan. 30, 2022, Felipe got a phone call that turn his world upside down.

"I balled up on my knees. I jumped to the ground and just couldn’t, couldn’t believe it," he said.

Zamien was found dead inside his mother’s apartment on Dunlap Street. Felipe later learned about the 911 call his son made before he died.

The 911 call

Dispatcher: "Houston 911. You need medical, police, or fire?"

Zamien: "Please send the police, please. Someone is trying to rape me."

Zamien spent the next three minutes pleading with the dispatcher on the other end of the line.

Zamien: "Someone’s trying to rape me."

Dispatcher: "Who’s trying to rape you?"

Zamien: "Someone outside."

Dispatcher: "Do you know the person?"

Zamien: "No. I do not know the person."

Dispatcher: "This person who is trying to rape you. Are they Black, Hispanic, White, Asian?"

Zamien: "Miss, just (expletive) send someone, please."

The investigation

According to HPD records, when officers arrived, they found Zamien dead with 'severe lacerations." Investigators noted that they found a bloody knife and a phone.

"Something wasn’t right," Aleman said.

Several witnesses gave statements to police about what happened earlier in the afternoon. Some of them said they saw Zamien being approached by and running from two men. Their descriptions of the suspects, however, differed.

One person described the men as "Black," and another said the men were "Hispanic." One person said he heard the two men yelling homophobic slurs as they chased Zamien.

Zamien’s mother said in her statement to police that her son "called her to come home because someone was trying to rape him." She stated, "When she arrived ... she found her son’s body face down." She informed investigators her son "has been suicidal before ... a few years ago ... but did not have any recent suicidal ideations."

Zamien’s death was investigated as a homicide but that changed nearly three months later, on April 20, 2022, when Zamien’s autopsy was complete. The Harris County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled Zamien died from suicide. That did not sit well with his father.

"It just goes against everything that was told to me that day," Felipe said.

Felipe launched his own investigation. He requested and reviewed police and medical records looking for any information that could help him learn more about his son’s death. One year later, Felipe said, the medical examiner’s office agreed to take another look at Zamien’s autopsy.

"I kept calling up there and having concerns, and I had the help of my family as well. They kept calling, too," Felipe said.

In March, Zamien’s autopsy results were amended. The manner of death was changed from "suicide" to "undetermined."

"It made me believe a lot more and keep pushing even moving forward towards us getting some type of answer. It was a big relief," Felipe said.

Felipe said it's a good start, but he won’t stop fighting until he gets justice for his son.

"I believe somebody killed him, and I’m not going to give up. I’m going to keep pushing for answers as to why, and hopefully, they find a person that did this," Felipe said.

The Harris County Medical Examiner’s Office responded had said this about the reversed autopsy: "A case may be reviewed again by the pathologists if additional information or communication is received, especially during ongoing investigations. Occasionally this leads to an amended report being issued. No wrongdoing occurred."

HPD said Zamien’s case is active and that it has been assigned for further investigation.

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