|Photo by Jack Gould|
In the wake of increased violence nationwide against Arab-Americans, Sikhs and others who simply look different, the killing of a San Gabriel storekeeper is being investigated by the FBI as a possible hate crime.
Adel Karas, a 48-year-old Egyptian-American, owned International Market on Las Tunas Drive for more than two decades. He was shot in the chest by one of two men who walked into his store around 3:15 Saturday afternoon. An argument broke out, but authorities will not say what was said. In its initial report, the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department called it an attempted robbery, though the cash register was open and money did not appear to be missing.
“It was a hate crime,” said Hoda Eltantawi, one of a dozen or so friends and relatives who gathered at the store Monday. “He didn’t bother anyone. He was here 12 hours a day, seven days a week.” A shrine has been set up outside the store. Under a picture of Karas, someone wrote, “Dear Adel, may hatred perish as you rest in peace.”
Karas was among the first grocers in the San Gabriel Valley to offer falafel and Arabic beans. His customers say he was a gentle man who filled his shop with beautiful Arabic music.
Nationwide, the FBI is investigating 40 possible hate crimes, including two other killings, assaults and arsons that have occurred since the attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Among the cases:
• Balbir Singh Sodhi, 49, was killed in a drive-by shooting outside his gas station in Mesa, Arizona. Sodhi, a Sikh, had dark skin, long facial hair and wore a turban. According to police, Sodhi’s assailant then drove 10 miles to a second gas station and fired shots through a window at a Lebanese-American clerk and into the home of an Afghani family. Frank Silva Roque, 42, was charged with first-degree murder, four counts of attempted murder and three counts of drive-by shooting. As he was being handcuffed, Roque was quoted in a local paper as shouting: “I stand for America all the way!”
• Waqar Hassan Choudry, 40, a Pakistani Muslim, was found fatally shot in his shop in Dallas, Texas. Police would not speculate publicly on a motive. The New York Times reported that money had been left behind in the register.
• In north Seattle, a 53-year-old man tried to burn down the Islamic Idriss Mosque. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that a man, running with a can of gasoline and a handgun, caught the attention of Issa Toandeel, who had stayed late after evening services “to protect the temple.” Toandeel caught up with the man, who fired a gun at Toandeel, tried to escape in a car and lost control, smashing into a utility pole. The car burst into flames. Police rescued the man, who was unconscious and smelled of alcohol. Toandeel said the temple had received threats, including one phone call that promised: “We will kill you like sheep.”
• A Moroccan gas-station attendant in Palos Heights, Illinois, was attacked with the blunt end of a 2-foot-long machete, according to the Chicago Tribune. He did not seek medical treatment. In Bridgeview, a suburb a few miles north, police held a crowd of protesters in check as they attempted to march on a Muslim mosque. Nineteen-year-old Colin Zaremba was quoted as saying, “I’m proud to be American, and I hate Arabs and I always have.” The crowd chanted, “USA! USA!”
• A Pakistani woman in Huntington, New York, was targeted by a 75-year-old drunken man, who tried to run her down with his car in a shopping-mall parking lot. According to New York’s Daily News, the man blamed her “for destroying my country.”
• The Minority Assistance Service, a San Francisco organization that helps Muslims with immigration-related problems, was hit by vandals, who threw a plastic bag, filled with pig’s blood, against the front office door. According to the Los Angeles Times, a man telephoned the office just as the bag was thrown, asking, “Is this the Islamic community center? There’s a package for [Osama] bin Laden in front of the building.”
• James J. Zogby, president of the Arab-American Institute in Washington, told the Los Angeles Times that he had received personal threats on his answering machine. One of the threats, placed by a male caller, said, “Jim, you towel-head, I’ll slit your throat and kill your kids.”
• A Sikh temple in West Sacramento was ordered by an angry caller to lower its religious flag to half-staff. When Sikh leaders refused, the man threatened to return. The next morning, the man barricaded an entrance to the temple “with a tractor, blocked the second gate with a truck and trailer, and padlocked it.” Phillip John Lucas was charged with felony vandalism and trespassing after he jumped into the temple’s holy pool.
• Three-year-old Mantej Singh, the son of San Francisco cab driver Kulwant Singh, was hit on the head by a Molotov cocktail lobbed into the living room of his house on Friday afternoon. Mantej was playing on the sofa, the San Mateo County Times reported, when an unknown man pitched a bottle containing a cloth rag and an unidentified liquid that smelled like lamp oil through the window. Kulwant Singh, who is a Sikh and of Indian descent, had left his house to purchase an American flag.
• Sixty-six-year-old Attar Singh was beaten just blocks away from the Sikh Cultural Society on 188th Street in New York. Singh, who was visiting his son from India, was beaten for nearly 10 minutes by a group of men who jumped out of a passing car. Singh was rescued by police.