Killing of Nabra Hassanen
|Killing of Nabra Hassanen|
|Location||Sterling, Virginia, United States|
|Date||June 18, 2017 |
3 a.m. – 4 a.m. (UTC−04:00)
On June 18, 2017, Nabra Hassanen, a 17-year-old American girl from Reston, Virginia, was sexually assaulted and killed. The prime suspect for the murder is an illegal immigrant who was 22 at the time. He was indicted for Hassanen's rape and murder and subsequently pled guilty to both charges in November 2017. Police have classified the killing as an act of road rage, and not a hate crime.
Nabra Hassanen was a sophomore at South Lakes High School in Reston, Virginia, where she would soon be starting her junior year in Fall 2017. She is Muslim and on June 18, 2017 it was the month of Ramadan, and Hassanen was with 15 teenage friends near the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) Center Mosque. As soon as they got some food from a McDonald's nearby, Hassanen and her friends made their way back to the mosque between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m and came into "a dispute with a man driving a red car".
Hassanen's group of friends scattered as the man drove onto a curb. He then followed them to a parking lot, got out of the car and chased them. When the man managed to reach Hassanen, he hit her with a baseball bat and put her in the car. As Hassanen's friends ran back to the mosque quickly, the man "drove off with her in his car", took her to a nearby location, and assaulted her again (details of the second assault were not revealed). After Hassanen died of "blunt force trauma to her upper body", the man dumped her in a pond near his home.
At 4 a.m. of the same day, Fairfax County police started searching for the girl, whose body was found floating in a pond around 3 p.m. The police then noticed a suspicious car in the vicinity and arrested the driver, who was later charged with second-degree murder.
The day after the killing, the police stated on Twitter that "they are not investigating the attack as a hate crime". The County police spokeswoman said during a news conference that "it appears that the suspect became so enraged over this traffic argument that it escalated into deadly violence". Since the police believed the killing did not seem to be related by either race or religion, it was considered a road rage incident, rather than a hate crime-motivated offence. Fairfax County police chief Edwin Roessler Jr also told the media that they had "absolutely no evidence" showing the killing of Hassanen was caused by hate crime.
The suspect, aged 22, is an illegal immigrant to the United States from El Salvador who worked in construction. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement had no previous encounters with the suspect prior to Hassanen's killing.
Several days before Hassanen's murder, a woman who was being treated in the emergency room of a hospital in Loudon County told a representative of the County's Child Protective Services agency that the suspect had punched, choked and sexually assaulted her; she also told the representative that the suspect was a member of international criminal gang MS-13. The woman declined to press charges against the suspect, and Fairfax County police said that they have found no "credible information" that the suspect had been affiliated with the MS-13 drug gang.
Defense attorneys for the accused filed a neuropyschological report that stated he was "likely intellectually disabled" and further evaluations should be held to determine whether he has the mental capacity to face the death penalty. The motion was filed in May 2018, and lists issues such as significant cognitive limitations, poor memory, severely impaired judgement, and functional illiteracy. A separate motion for monthly motion hearings was filed in April by the attorneys, as the accused had difficulty following the legal arguments.
The accused pled guilty to rape and murder on November 2018, a plea deal that will get him life in prison without parole, but allow him to escape the death penalty. He was sentenced to eight life sentences on March 28, 2019.
The ADAMS Center Mosque told the public in a statement that the community was devastated by the killing, saying "it is a time for us to come together to pray and care for our youth." On the Internet, some people expressed their outrage by criticizing the decision by police not to look into the killing as a hate crime. Isabella Burton of Vox wrote: "Hassanen has become another example of an innocent victim of Islamophobia."
On June 20, citizens of Washington D.C. gathered at the city's park Dupont Circle commemorating Hassanen's death, a 24-year-old man attempted to set fire to a fountain where the memorial took place and was arrested for vandalism. A sergeant later said there was no permanent damage found on the fountain and the police were not sure why the man was around.
At a preliminary hearing for the accused in October 2017, supports and friends of the victim staged a protest outside of the Fairfax County Courthouse. Friends and family honored Hassanen's 18th birthday by taking part in a charity event and giving back to others.
Questioning nature of crime
Around 5,000 mourners attended Hassanen's funeral on June 21 and caused a traffic jam. While the majority of the attendees were Muslims, Christians and Jews were also seen. Hassanen's father, Mohmoud Hassanen Aboras, was one of many Muslims who believed his daughter was killed because of her identity as a Muslim – when Hassanen was abducted, she was dressed in a Muslim robe known as abaya. Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman of the Council on American–Islamic Relations, said "there is a strong possibility the crime wouldn't have happened if the teenagers weren't Muslim". A lawyer with CAIR said "Muslim Americans are particularly fearful now."
On the one year anniversary of the murder, members of Hassan's community continued to question whether this was a hate crime.
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- Chavez, Nicole; DiGiacomo, Janet (29 November 2018). "Man pleads guilty to rape and murder in killing of Muslim teen attacked near mosque". CNN. Retrieved 27 February 2019.
Nabra's death was considered the result of road rage despite claims from her family and her religious community that she was targeted because of her race and her faith..
- Jouvenal, Justin (October 16, 2017). "Prosecutors to pursue death penalty against man accused of killing Nabra Hassanen". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 24, 2017.
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- Jouvenal, Justin (June 28, 2017). "Police find no 'credible evidence' that Muslim girl's alleged killer is a gang member". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 24, 2018.
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- Bakarat, Matthew (29 November 2018). "Man pleads guilty in Muslim teen's 2017 death in Northern Virginia". Richmond Times Dispatch. AP. Retrieved 27 February 2019.
- Tara Isabella Burton. "Nabra Hassanen's murder may not be a hate crime. It's still a tragedy for Muslim Americans". Vox. Retrieved June 29, 2017.
As a young woman, beloved by her community, Hassanen has become another example of an innocent victim of Islamophobia: a girl who, according to classmates, had "no enemies."
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- Barakat, Matthew (June 21, 2017). "Thousands Mourn Nabra Hassanen, the Virginia Teen Who Was Beaten to Death". The Time. Associated Press. Retrieved June 21, 2017.
- "Muslim leaders question police's claim that killing of 17-year-old girl is not a 'hate crime'". WITW. 2 June 2017. Retrieved 27 February 2019.
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- Antonia Blumberg. "Police Call Teen's Beating Death 'Road Rage.' That Doesn't Sit Well With Muslim Americans". Huffington Post. Retrieved June 29, 2017.
Gadeir Abbas, senior litigation attorney for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said Muslim Americans are particularly fearful now.
- Jacobs, Sally H. (10 June 2018). "Why Nabra? One year after a Muslim teen's brutal rape and murder, her community is still in mourning—and torn over whether her killing was a hate crime". Slate. Retrieved 27 February 2019.