On August 9, the on line news outlet “The New Mexico Sun” published the news article entitled in part “Albuquerque Police Department makes an arrest in connection with killing of four Muslim men.” The article was written by NM Sun staff reporter George Willis. Following is the full, unedited article with the news source links:
Headline: “Albuquerque Police Department makes an arrest in connection with killing of four Muslim men: ‘We’ve never seen something like this’.
“Albuquerque Police have arrested Muhammad Syed, 51, in connection with two of the four homicides of Muslim men in the area.
Syed, according to KRQE News, was taken into custody on Monday in Santa Rosa, a town about 118 miles east of Albuquerque, where the murders took place. According to APD, Syed is charged with the July 26 shooting of Aftab Hussein and the Aug. 1 shooting of Muhammad Afzaal Hussain. APD connected Syed to those two cases through bullet casings recovered at the respective crime scenes and several guns recovered in the case.
“A tip from the community is what helped lead us to this subject, and what helped us eventually find the car that we put out just two days ago to the public,” APD Deputy Commander Kyle Hartsock told KRQE News. “Hundreds of tips have come in that have been thoroughly reviewed; dozens of interviews took place.”
About the same time Syed was being arrested in Santa Rosa, APD was searching his home near Gibson and Carlisle. Police said multiple guns were found inside Syed’s home, while another gun was found in his car.
The capture came from a tip after the Council on American Islamic Relations increased the reward to $10,000 for information leading to an arrest in connection with four homicides of Muslim men in Albuquerque since November. The latest murder occurred last Saturday, the third killing within a span of two weeks.
Naeem Hussain, 25, was found dead hours after attending a funeral service for two of the three previous victims. Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27, Aftab Hussein, 41, and Mohammad Ahmadi 62, were all “ambushed with no warning,” according to KOB4 News.
“We have never seen something like this — something so systematic — something happening over a long period of time, targeting multiple people with a killer who is still at large,” Edward Ahmed Mitchell, CAIR Deputy Director, told KOB4 News last week. “We encourage anyone with information to contact local or federal law enforcement. This violence must be stopped. Now, this is absolutely insane. It’s absolutely unacceptable, and it must end right away.”
Albuquerque police held a press conference Saturday to announce it was working with the FBI to find the persons responsible for the murders.
According to KOAT 7 Action News, Albuquerque police said the first homicide occurred on Nov. 7, 2021, when Ahmadi, who is from Afghanistan, was killed outside of a business he and his brother ran at 1401 San Mateo Blvd. The second homicide of Aftab Hussein, took place on July 26 in southeast Albuquerque.
The third homicide took place on Aug. 1 when Muhammed Afzaal Hussain was killed in southeast Albuquerque. Naeem Hussain was killed on Aug. 5 on Truman Street and Grand Avenue in northeast Albuquerque.
“The motives are still being explored, fully, to understand what they are,” Hartsock told KRQE News.
The link to the New Mexico Sun article is here:
TIPS AND SEARCH WARRANTS LEAD TO SYED ARREST
It was hundreds of tips from within the Muslim community that led to Syed’s arrest as well as executed search warrants. APD Deputy Commander Kyle Hartsock had this to say:
“Hundreds of tips have come in at the very least that have been thoroughly reviewed and gone through, dozens of interviews took place. … We started to focus in on Mr. Syed and … secured a search warrant for his residence near Gibson and Carlisle in Southeast Albuquerque. As we were getting ready to execute that search warrant, we saw him load into a vehicle [and] as a matter of fact, a vehicle we believe was used in the homicides that we put out on the poster – and we followed him. … Multiple firearms were recovered from that home that are continually being tested … But, right now, we believe that at least one of them inside the home and one of them inside the car that was pulled over are matching to our two crime scenes on Rhode Island and Cornell.”
New Mexico State Police, APD and the FBI stopped Syed’s car outside of Santa Rosa, about 115 miles from his home, and he was taken into custody as a SWAT team executed a search warrant on the apartment he shared with his family. When he was stopped, Syed told police he was going to Houston to find a new place to live for his family because of the recent violence against Muslims in Albuquerque, according to a criminal complaint filed in Metropolitan Court. All he had with him was clothing, shoes and a gun.
The link to quoted news material is here:
MOTIVES BEHIND THE KILLINGS
During the Agust 9 news conference, APD Deputy Commander Kyle was asked questions about whether the conflict was due to tensions between members of different sects of Islam. Syed is a Sunni Muslim and his daughter is reportedly married to someone who practices Shia Islam. Hartsock said Syed’s motives for the shootings are still being investigated.
APD investigators disclosed evidence shows Syed knew the victims “to some extent” and “an interpersonal conflict may have led to the shootings.” After he was arrested, Syed told investigators he “has known Naeem Hussain since 2016 and recognized Aftab Hussein from parties in the community,” according to a criminal complaint filed. Hartsock said this:
“We do have some information about those events taking place. … But we’re not really clear if that was the actual motive or if it was part of the motive, or if there’s a bigger picture that we’re missing. So what’s really important is we’re still investigating.”
The link to quoted news source material is here:
The four victims whose murders law enforcement say may be connected are:
Mohammad Ahmadi, age 62.
Mohammad Ahmadi was the first homicide that happened on November 7, 2021. In that incident, Ahmadi was killed outside of a business he and his brother ran at 1401 San Mateo Blvd. Ahmadi was a Muslim man from Afghanistan.
Aftab Hussein, age 41.
Aftab Hussein was the second homicide that happened on July 26, 2022 in southeast Albuquerque. Aftab Hussein was found with apparent gunshot wounds in the 400 block of Rhode Island. A criminal complaint filed in Metropolitan Court revealed that the suspect had hidden behind a bush near where Aftab Hussein typically parked his car, waited for him to get home and then shot him multiple times through the bush. He later died as a result of his injuries. Aftab Hussein was from Pakistan.
Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, age 27.
Muhammed Afzaal Hussain was the third homicide, and he was killed on August 1 in southeast Albuquerque. The shooting was a drive-by while he was walking near his apartment. He was found on a sidewalk in the area of Cornell Street and Lead Avenue. Muhammad Afzaal Hussain worked on the planning team for the city of Española. He had studied law and human resource management at the University of Punjab in Pakistan before receiving both master’s and bachelor’s degrees in community and regional planning from the University of New Mexico, according to a news release. Muhammad Afzaal worked on the campaign of Congresswoman Melanie Stansbury and she said this:
“He was a member of our campaign team. A kind, funny, brilliant, amazing young man from Pakistan who came to the United States to pursue his career and his life’s dream.”
Naeem Hussain, age 25.
Naeem Hussain was the fourth homicide which occurred on August 5. Naeem Hussain who was found dead by APD police officers who responded to reports of a shooting just before midnight in the area of Truman Street and Grand Avenue. Naeem Hussain migrated as a refugee from Pakistan in 2016. According to his brother-in-law, Ehsan Shahalami, Hussain fled persecution as a Shia Muslim and had just become a US citizen last month. He opened his own trucking business this year and was described as being a kind, generous and hardworking person. The day he was killed, he had attended a funeral for the two recent victims and expressed fear about the shootings, according to a spokesman with a mosque in Albuquerque.
Three of the men, Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, Aftab Hussein and Mohammad Ahmadi, were all ambushed with no warning, fired on and killed according to APD Homicide Investigations Commander Hartsock. Police have also said that they have determined there is a connection between the two deaths.
Links to quoted news sources are here:
MUSLIM COMMUNITY REACTS, INTERFAITH PRAYER AND MEMORIAL SERVICE HELD
The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) issued a statement in response to the arrest:
“We welcome the arrest of a suspect in this horrific shooting spree and we commend law enforcement for their efforts at the local, state and federal levels. We hope the news that this violence has been brought to an end will provide the New Mexico Muslim community some sense of relief and security.
Although we are waiting to learn more about these crimes, we are disturbed by early indications that the alleged killer may have been targeting particular members of the Shia community. If this is true, it is completely unacceptable, and we encourage law enforcement to file any appropriate hate crime charges against the suspect. Acts of hateful, sectarian violence against followers of the Shia tradition and any other group have no place in our communities, our country or anywhere else. American Muslims are and must be united against all forms of hateful bigotry, including anti-Shia bias.”
Hours after police announced the arrest of Syed, the Muslim community went forward with an interfaith prayer and memorial service to remember the 4 men who were killed. Hundreds of people attended the vigil held at the Islamic Center of New Mexico. The memorial service was attended by clergy representatives from numerous faiths including the Jewish, Christian, Sikh, Quaker, and Mennonite faiths and others who spoke at the vigil giving words of support. Also in attendance and who spoke were Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, Mayor Tim Keller, accompanied by his wife Kirsten Keller who did not speak. Mark Ronchetti, the Republican candidate for Governor also attended but did not speak.
Tahir Gauba, public relations for the Islamic Center of New Mexico had this to said this:
“This is the beauty of Albuquerque this is why I’m proud to say I grew up in this city. … We are hurting right now because our young brilliant stars, shining stars, young men died for no reason. … the Albuquerque Muslim community will sleep in peace tonight [knowing a suspect is behind bars].”
Aneela Abad, general secretary of the Islamic Center of New Mexico, said this:
“What made [Albuquerque] … better and made a difference are friends like you, so thank you so much for your support, continue to do that, because that is what make us better humans.”
Ahmad Assed, a defense attorney and president of the Islamic Center of New Mexico, thanked law enforcement on behalf of the Muslim community and said he had teared up with gratitude as he heard about their work.
“We hope and pray that things are brought to a conclusion and there’s closure for the families soon. … We respect, certainly, the criminal justice system and the presumption of innocence, and we understand that this is just the beginning.”
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
This is a city and state that is historically known for embracing its ethnic and cultural diversity and welcoming immigrants. As a person whose grandparents were Italian immigrants and who is half Hispanic, who was born, raised and who has lived in Albuquerque for a lifetime, who has raised a family and who has made a living practicing law, I am extremely sickened and very angry to see what our city has become.
The never-ending saga of record-breaking homicide rates, violent crime rates, drug and property crime rates, the increasing homelessness numbers, and now targeted hate crimes, has become our norm. This is not, this must not be, who we are as a community.
The expected expression of outrage and sympathy expressed by our elected officials when a violent crime occurs and then self-adulation when an arrest is made, is simply not enough. What we must demand and expect in no uncertain terms is swift justice. We must demand that our elected officials, and yes our law enforcement, do a better job.
Yes, APD and law enforcement did its job by apprehending Muhammad Syed for the killings and they are to be commended. But what about the other 70 plus murders that have occurred this year with the city on track to break last year’s record of 117 homicides?
Our elected officials must do a better job when dealing with our crime rates and they must be held accountable when they make promises and then fail to keep them which is what has happened in the city for the last 8 years. The carnage must be stopped and justice must be served.