The family of Seth Rich, the Democratic National Committee staffer who was shot and killed in Washington D.C. last month, wants to put a stop to the conspiracy theories surrounding his death. Family spokesman Brad Bauman gave a statement to Business Insider:

“The family welcomes any and all information that could lead to the identification of the individuals responsible, and certainly welcomes contributions that could lead to new avenues of investigation,” Bauman said…

“That 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. For the sake of finding Seth’s killer, and for the sake of giving the family the space they need at this terrible time, they are asking for the public to refrain from pushing unproven and harmful theories about Seth’s murder.”

The statement doesn’t name anyone in particular but the timing suggests it is a response to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Tuesday, WikiLeaks announced a $20,000 reward for information leading to Rich’s killer. That fueled online conspiracy theories that Rich may have been the source of the DNC material published by WikiLeaks. Also yesterday, Julian Assange gave an interview to a Dutch TV network in which he suggested it was possible Rich was killed because he was a source. Here’s a portion of it:

Assange: We don’t comment on who are sources are.

Host: But why make the suggestion about a young guy being shot in the streets of Washington?

Assange: Because we have to understand how high the stakes are in the United States and that our sources are…our sources face serious risks, that’s why they come to us so we can protect their anonymity.

Host: But it’s quite something to suggest a murder, that’s basically what you’re doing.

Assange is suggesting this might have been a hit straight out of a political thriller. But if Rich really was his source, why not just say so? Isn’t it more important to find the killer, especially if the killer was responding to the leak, than to protect the anonymity of the dead? 

The other, more likely, explanation is that Rich’s death had nothing to do with his work at the DNC or with WikiLeaks. Tuesday a police spokesman told Business Insider, “At this time, there is no indication that Seth Rich’s death is connected to his employment at the DNC.” Police have suggested the shooting may have been a robbery gone wrong. 

Assange appears to be capitalizing on a family’s personal tragedy to distract from the unpleasant truth that his DNC material was not a leak from an idealistic whistleblower. In fact, the material was likely stolen by Russian hackers engaged in international espionage. That’s not the sort of thing WikiLeaks wants to admit it is involved with.