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WikiLeaks reward offer in DNC staffer’s murder raises questions

Seth Rich was killed on July 10, 2016 in Northwest Washington D.C. (Metropolitan Police)

Many questions and very few answers continue to surround the killing of a Democratic National Committee staffer near his D.C. home last month. Here is what we know so far:

Who is Seth Rich?

Seth Conrad Rich, a 27-year-old graduate of Creighton University who grew up in Omaha, worked for the Democratic National Committee developing software that would help voters locate their polling places.

"Seth was an amazing human being," co-worker Aaron Weinberg said at a vigil last month. "He knew who he was and what he cared about and how much he wanted to make the world a better place, and he never let anything stop him in that pursuit."

What happened to him?

According to a D.C. Metro Police Department incident report, officers were called to the intersection of W St. and Flagler Pl. NW in Washington, D.C. around 4:20 a.m. on July 10 after sensors picked up the sound of gunshots. They found Rich conscious and breathing with gunshot wounds to his back.

Rich’s family believes he was jumped while walking home and was shot twice after a struggle.

He was taken to a hospital and was pronounced dead at 5:57 a.m. following emergency surgery.

Why was he killed?

Police have not yet identified a motive, but Chief Cathy Lanier and Rich’s parents have said attempted robbery is a possibility. However, he still had his wallet, credit cards, and watch when he was found.

“Right now, we have more questions than we have answers,” Lanier said at a press conference last week. “It is still a possibility that that’s what happened.”

Residents have said the Bloomingdale neighborhood where Rich was killed has been plagued by robberies since a city construction project has created dead ends on some poorly-lit streets. Police investigated three armed robberies and a carjacking near the shooting scene in June, and there have been 20 armed robberies in Bloomingdale so far this year.

Is there a reward?

D.C. police are offering a reward of up to $25,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Rich’s killer. This is the standard reward for any homicide committed in Washington.

Rich’s family begged the public for help solving the case last week.

"We need your help," his mother, Mary Rich, said at a press conference. "I ask you please if you know anything, heard anything, just come forward and talk to the police...particularly if you know of anyone that looked like they'd been in a fight."

Although police say the official reward will not be increased, WikiLeaks announced its own $20,000 reward Tuesday.

Wait. Why would WikiLeaks offer a reward?

We don’t really know.

In a statement to the Washington Post, WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange made a reference to not confirming or denying “alleged sources who were deceased,” but he also insisted that the reward should not be seen as implying that Rich was a source.

“We hope our efforts will contribute to the family’s calls for information and to the separate reward issued by police,” Assange said. “We have a history of obtaining information that has significantly contributed to many legal proceedings, including successful prosecutions.”

However, in an interview with a Dutch TV station Tuesday, Assange implied Rich could be the source of the 20,000 DNC emails that Wikileaks released on the eve of the Democratic National Convention in July.

"Whistle-blowers go to significant efforts to get us material and often very significant risks," Assange said. "As a 27-year-old, works for the DNC, was shot in the back, murdered just a few weeks ago for unknown reasons as he was walking down the street in Washington.”

He dismissed the suggestion that the killing was an attempted robbery and repeated, “Our sources take risks.”

What emails?

Emails posted by WikiLeaks suggested that the DNC heavily favored Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries and apparently discussed using his religion to turn voters against him. The release of the messages prompted the resignation of DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Three more top officials resigned last week.

Clinton’s campaign, intelligence officials, and some cybersecurity experts have said they believe hackers linked to the Russian government accessed the DNC servers and stole the emails. Assange has previously refused to identify the source of the documents, but he has claimed there is no evidence Russian intelligence was involved.

What does that have to do with Rich’s death?

Nothing that we know of.

Conspiracy theories have been spreading online due to Rich’s job and the circumstances surrounding his shooting, though. Some have suggested that Rich was killed for political reasons by allies of the Clintons or because he was going to provide information on voter fraud to the FBI.

Rich's family is urging people not to promote unproven theories about the crime. In a statement to Business Insider, a family spokesperson said, "Some are attempting to politicize this horrible tragedy, and in their attempts to do so, are actually causing more harm than good and impeding on the ability for law enforcement to properly do their job."

There is no evidence to support claims that the Clintons were involved or that Rich was working with the FBI.

What do police think?

D.C. police declined to address specific questions about the case, citing the ongoing investigation, but they released the following statement:

“At this time, there is no indication that Seth Rich’s death is connected to his employment at the DNC. However, we welcome information that could potentially lead to the identification of the individual(s) responsible for his death and are pleased when any outside contributors help us generate new leads.”

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call police at 202-727-9099 or to submit information anonymously by texting the tip line at 50411.

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