- Police and family say he was last seen leaving the Merle Hay Target in Des Moines, Iowa.
- The Roosevelt High School senior has not been in contact with family since.
- Des Moines police are investigating his disappearance and have asked anyone with information about Sharif's location to call 911.
- A Target spokesperson told Business Insider that the company is "focused on continuing to assist the Des Moines Police Department as they investigate."
- Sharif's loved ones characterize him as a funny, hard-working, and family-oriented teen, saying that his disappearance is baffling and out of character.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
A teenage Target employee left his store on a Friday night almost 2 weeks ago. He hasn't been seen since.
Abdullahi "Abdi" Sharif is an 18-year-old Target employee who disappeared on January 17.
Ifrah Mohamed couldn't be still during lunch on January 24. She kept stepping outside, hoping to get a better look at the figures drifting past the Des Moines restaurant where she was eating. Her younger brother, 18-year-old Abdullahi "Abdi" Sharif, had disappeared from the nearby Merle Hay Mall a week prior. After a day spent sifting through his social media accounts for clues, Mohamed began seeing his face among the passersby.
Nearly two weeks have ticked by since Sharif disappeared after walking out of the Target in the early evening of Friday, January 17. His family has not heard from him since, and Des Moines police have opened up an investigation into the Roosevelt High School senior's disappearance.
So far, investigators say they've "found some evidence" that may point to a voluntary absence, although they are treating the disappearance like a "worst case scenario." But, loved ones say that the vanishing is chillingly out-of-character for Sharif.
"He's a great brother," Mohamed said.
She described a gregarious, funny kid who worked at Target to support his family and often pitched in to watch his younger siblings.
"It's not like Abdullahi to just up and leave be," longtime family friend Emily Levine told Business Insider. "He loves his family a lot. No one knows what to do about what's happened."
'The worst case scenario'
Along with his older sister Mohamed, Sharif has worked at the Target in the Merle Hay Mall for around two years.
January 17 was a snow day in Des Moines, so the teen had the day off from Roosevelt High School. Sharif's mother drove him to the mall that evening, after he told her that he'd been called in for a shift. He asked her to come back to pick him up at 9:30 p.m. But Sharif's loved ones say that neither he nor Mohamed were scheduled to work that night.
Sharif did make it into the Target, however, and the retailer provided police with footage of Sharif in the store. In a still released by Des Moines police, he appears to be wearing a dark winter coat, khakis, and sneakers. Sharif is also holding a phone, with earbuds plugged into his ears.
"At Target, the safety and security of our team members is our top priority," a Target spokesperson said in a statement to Business Insider. "Our thoughts are with Abdi's family and we're focused on continuing to assist the Des Moines Police Department as they investigate. As soon as we were made aware that Abdi was missing, we worked closely with law enforcement to share information and security footage with them and will continue providing anything that can be helpful."
The Des Moines Police Department's public information officer, Sgt. Paul Parizek, declined to say what time exactly Sharif left the Target store. It's also unknown where he went after leaving his place of work. The teen's phone was either shut off or completely drained of its battery shortly after his disappearance.
Mohamed and Levine are attempting to access Sharif's Apple account, to access data regarding his phone's location. Despite their requests for expedited access, they say Apple has told them that they may not be able to get into the account until February 20.
Meanwhile, Des Moines police are looking to other forms of technology to locate Sharif. Parizek said that his department is striving to use video footage and "good, old-fashioned police work" to find Sharif. He said that detectives have gone to businesses and homes in the area where the teen vanished to check if anyone has captured the missing young man on video.
"At this point, the only thing that we can say is that we found some evidence that indicates that his absence is voluntary," Parizek said.
"We take the worst case scenario into our top consideration. ... But we definitely don't want to scare him into hiding if he just decided, 'I'm going to go hang out and have a good time.'"
According to Mohamed and Levine, Sharif did post a Snapchat while at the Target on Friday, referring to "bad, bad news." The post has baffled those closest to him, and they are uncertain what he was alluding to and whether or not it had anything to do with his disappearance.
Sharif's loved ones told Business Insider that the police have been in close contact regarding the case. Mohamed and Levine have also expressed worry about the teen's health. In his absence, Sharif has missed weekly shots needed to treat his allergies.
"Everybody's concerned about him," Parizek said. "The community's concerned because he is a good kid and a good employee. Not the type of kid to get in trouble. We're just really worried about his welfare."
'As long as we know he's okay'
Des Moines resident Jill Tobin is a frequent customer at the Merle Hay Target. She said she's encountered Sharif a number of times at the cash register.
"He was one of the sweeter cashiers," Tobin told Business Insider. "Always smiling. He just seemed special. He was always really nice and engaging and talked to everyone. Everyone loved going through his line. It just really broke my heart when I found out he was missing."
Tobin said that she hopes that Target will post some kind of reward for information about what happened to Sharif, and that the local press will stick with the case.
Meanwhile, Levine can't forget where she first met the missing teen. One summer around 14 years ago, then-four-year-old Sharif became a student at the Massachusetts preschool where she worked. He belonged to a family of Somalian refugees who moved to the United States from Kenya, and he spoke almost no English. As a young teacher, Levine began learning to speak Somali to be able to communicate with the new student. She became close to Sharif and his whole family.
Levine flew out to Des Moines after Sharif disappeared, and she and Mohamed have launched their own search for clues in his disappearance. They have gained access to the missing teen's Snapchat, Facebook, emails, and bank account. They said they haven't yet found anything that sheds light on why he disappeared or where he is now.
"We love him," Levine said. "And if we find out he wants to move to Alaska and never talk to any of us again, that's okay. As long as we know he's okay."
Sharif stands around 5'4" and weighs 120 pounds. Police ask that anyone with information regarding Sharif's disappearance or location call 911.
Read Target's full statement here:
At Target, the safety and security of our team members is our top priority. Our thoughts are with Abdi's family and we're focused on continuing to assist the Des Moines Police Department as they investigate.
As soon as we were made aware that Abdi was missing, we worked closely with law enforcement to share information and security footage with them and will continue providing anything that can be helpful.
We've been in touch to provide support to Abdi's family and to our team members. We please ask that anyone with knowledge of Abdi's whereabouts notify police immediately.
Send tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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