MH police respond to burning death in Lilydale Park

25-year-old dead when responders reach him

Mendota Heights police say a Minneapolis man they found engulfed in flames inside Lilydale Regional Park last Monday night was beyond saving by the time they put him out.

The victim has been identified as Ahmed Mohamed Ali, age 25. Police were called to the scene shortly before 6 p.m. April 29 by a pair of hikers who saw flames and heard whimpering noises. Mendota Heights officers arrived on scene first, but by the time the hikers could direct officers to the scene to administer care Ali was already dead, according to Police Chief Mike Aschenbrener.

The case is currently under investigation by the St. Paul Police. St. Paul Sgt. Paul Paulos said there is currently no evidence of foul play; however, the death has not yet been ruled a suicide. Paulos said police found a container filled with an unidentified accelerant near the body.

Mendota Heights police serves the City of Lilydale, but the park falls within St. Paul Police jurisdiction.

According to Aschenbrener, the body was found partway down a slope in an area of the park near Highway 13 and Annapolis Street. Aschenbrener praised the hikers for maintaining their composure and guiding officers to the scene by phone.

"The citizens did a great job of guiding us in," Aschenbrener said. "Being aware of where you're at can really help us get there."

Aschenbrener said it's critical for witnesses to be aware of their locations and landmarks when they contact police, given the crucial time element in such situations. Aschenbrener acknowledged such presence of mind is difficult in such a bizarre and disturbing case as this.

"I've been doing this job 30 years and I've never had anyone burned to death" outside of car crashes, Aschenbrener said.

Anyone with information about Ali or the crime scene should call the St. Paul Police homicide unit at 651-266-5650.

-- Luke Reiter

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