Civil rights activists are demanding a hate crime investigation after a Jordanian-American was fatally shot in the head on June 26, reportedly at the hands of a gunman who accused of screaming racist slurs before shooting.
After struggling with his injuries for two days, Ziad Abu Naim, 42, of Houston died at Memorial Hermann Hospital.
The accused gunman, Robert Craig Klimek, 43, has been charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, though the Harris County District Attorney's Office says the charge “may now be upgraded.”
The shooting reportedly followed a road rage argument at the intersection of Fairdale and Greenridge in Southwest Houston.
Court records describe Naim getting out of his vehicle and punching Klimek twice in the face before latter pulled out a semi-automatic pistol and shot Naim once in the face. Klimek helped Naim's wife – the only eyewitness at the scene – call 911 and “did chest compressions on him.”
But the victim’s family disputes this story.
"The story is a BS story that has been told. When he got out of the car and punched a man, that's all BS story. He would never do such a thing," Alia Naim, the victim's cousin, was quoted as saying by ABC 13.
Naim’s wife claims Kilmek dropped a racial slur, starting an argument. She says the accused yelled “Go back to Islam” after which Naim got got out his car and the next thing she heard was "a pop."
On the other hand, Kilmek, who was taken in for questioning, has told the police he shot Naim once in self-defense and his attorney, Craig Seldin, doesn’t believe his client’s actions were racially motivated.
“I don't think it's a hate crime, but that's for the DA's office to decide whether or not they want to bring a charge like that," Seldin told KHOU.
Based on the sole eyewitness’ account of the shooting, the Washington, D.C., office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations has asked Houston police to investigate the incident as a hate crime.
“We want police to do what police do. We want a tactical investigation. We want to know what the truth of the matter is. I mean, either way, it's tragic. Whether it's a road rage or a hate crime," said CAIR executive director Mustafaa Carroll.
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Though investigation is underway, it is not clear yet if the authorities have agreed to pursue it as a hate crime.