Almost two dozen people held a short vigil Sunday in the Texas city of Dallas to mourn an Iraqi man, shot dead while photographing snow, and to urge community members to "silence the violence."
Mourners gathered for 15 minutes outside the apartment complex of Ahmed al-Jumaili, 36, who was killed very early Thursday morning, just after midnight, when he, his wife and her brother raced outside to capture scenes of snowfall in the southern U.S. state.
A gunshot rang out from a small group of men, and al-Jumaili’s blood flecked the snow as the trio fled to his apartment on the city’s far northeast side. The Dallas Morning News reported he died at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. His funeral took place Saturday at a mosque in the city.
The shooting appeared to be random, according to the newspaper. Police, who have increased patrols, continue to search for two to four unidentified young men spotted at the scene and caught on a black-and-white surveillance video posted on the Dallas Police Department website. One of the men appeared to be carrying a rifle, Dallas police said.
"It doesn’t matter who you are," Cheryl Roy, al-Jumaili’s next-door neighbor, told the Associated Press while at Sunday’s vigil. "It saddens me to know that such violence exists right out your front door."
The apartment complex is in a neighborhood that’s home to many immigrants. Law enforcement authorities haven’t ruled out the possibility that this was a hate crime or that al-Jumaili was a mistaken target, the paper said.
But the head of the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ local chapter told the paper that, based on witness accounts, she doesn’t believe this was a hate crime. CAIR had gotten involved in the case because of "a heightened sense of awareness with regard to hate crimes against Muslims," executive director Alia Salem told the cable news network CNN.
Salem, who heads the chapter in the Dallas and Fort Worth area, told CNN there is "extreme heartache ... and no shortage of sadness for this beautiful young man who had just come to this country 20 days ago."
Al-Jumaili had arrived in Dallas eager to reunite with his wife, Zahraa Altaie, and to escape the violence in Iraq, news sources said. He had remained in Baghdad, at his mother’s home, for a year after his wife’s departure to continue working multiple jobs to save money, the Dallas paper said.
Salem told the newspaper al-Jumaili's relatives no longer were speaking with news media. Al-Jumaili’s wife "is in pieces," Salem said.
Police, relatives and friends are asking anyone with information about the slaying to come forward. A local group has offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.
CAIR announced Monday afternoon that it was offering an additional $7,000 reward, in cooperation with the Dallas-based Murrell Foundation.
Some information for this report was provided by the Associated Press.