'Nobody believes it was a suicide': Family searches for answers in DC man's death

The walls of 26 Quincy Place in Northeast D.C. has answers Zackary Freeling’s family desperately wants.

What happened inside that townhouse on October 18th of 2021?

"Nobody believes it was a suicide. Nobody in the family, none of his friends. Everybody who knew Zack. It just wasn’t possible," Freeling’s uncle Bruce Weiss said.

Zackary Freeling was a Georgetown Day School graduate who went to college at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee where he became known around campus for running a food truck that carried his Hebrew name Aryeh, meaning lion.

His family says he was a caring person, determined to live a fulfilling life helping others.

"Zack was very tenacious. He was a very loving human being. He went through a great deal," said Isa Freeling, Zack’s aunt.

Freeling was found inside the home with a single gunshot wound. His roommate called 9-1-1, letting police know Freeling was unresponsive.

Freeling died as a result of that gunshot wound. He was 26 years old.

Freeling was the last surviving member of his immediate family.  His older brother and father committed suicide.  Freeling’s mother died of pancreatic cancer.

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It’s been a painful loss for Freeling’s extended family and friends, who insist that despite having endured tremendous loss, Freeling didn’t take his own life.

"Zack was very determined to have a good life and make something special out of his life," Isa Freeling told Fox 5. "We had this conversation and my mother had this conversation. He said, ‘I have too much to do, and I have too much to prove for myself, for my family,’ but also, he said, ‘I’m too chicken, I would never do anything like that.'"

Freeling’s family is pushing for justice for Zack’s death, and has expressed frustration at not having more details about what happened the night he died.

Nine months after Freeling’s death, the D.C. Medical Examiner’s office has said Freeling died from a gunshot wound to the torso but has not said what the manner of death is: Homicide, suicide or accident.

A spokesman for the Medical Examiner’s office says the manner of death is "undetermined" and told Fox 5 to reach out to the Metropolitan Police Department for additional details.

MPD declined to make anyone available to speak about Freeling’s death, saying the investigation is ongoing, and referring Fox 5 to the Medical Examiner for questions about the manner of death.

The Freeling’s say a suicide investigator was originally assigned to Zack’s case but was eventually switched over to the homicide division. The Freeling’s believe MPD’s investigators are working on the case to the best of their ability.

However, they have hired a private investigator, Mike Ciravolo, who’s also working on this case. Ciravolo has 50 years of law enforcement experience, and his work has led him to believe this was a homicide for multiple reasons.

"Zack never owned a gun, didn’t carry a gun, there were no guns in Zack’s life," he says.

Ciravolo also says Freeling’s body was found in the foyer of the home, which would be inconsistent with his experience looking into suicides, saying suicides are often committed in bedrooms or sitting in chairs, not in a foyer.

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Freeling’s family also said Zack was printing shirts for his food truck, which was getting inspected in the days ahead. They also said that Freeling had talked about going back to school, and had even made plans to see friends.

Aside from Freeling’s family saying Zack didn’t have guns nor like them, Ciravolo said in his 50 years of experience, suicide by gun is most commonly done with a shot to the mouth, temple or heart.

Ciravolo says Freeling was shot in the shoulder.

"Where there’s some certainty where you’re going to do what you intend to do," Ciravolo said.

Zack Freeling was also left-handed, Ciravolo says, adding it’s rare for someone to fire a gun with their non-dominant hand, and a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the left shoulder from someone who was left-handed isn’t typical.

"You’ve gotta be sort of a contortionist. If you’re holding the gun in your shooting hand, your strong hand, and now you want to shoot yourself in the shoulder, you’ve gotta kinda do this. It’s a very uncomfortable and abnormal way to shoot yourself," Ciravolo said.

Zack Freeling’s family has started a GoFundMe called "Justice For Zack Freeling." They’re looking to raise $80,000 to help pay for the private investigator, but they’re also hoping to raise money for a reward, believing that someone knows something about what happened to Zack Freeling.

"We need justice to come because he was a lovely, fine human being, and he was only 26 years old, and he didn’t even have a chance," Isa Freeling said.

Fox 5 tried speaking with Freeling’s roommate who called 9-1-1 for their perspective but did not hear back.

If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health crisis, contact the three-digit dialing code, 988, that takes the place of the 10-digit National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can call or text the number, or chat online at suicidepreventionlifeline.org.