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Iraqi Immigrant's Shooting During Snowstorm Leaves Dallas Neighborhood On Edge

Family photo
Ahmed Al-Jumaili had been living in northeast Dallas with his wife Zahraa for just three weeks since he'd arrived from Iraq.

The killing last week of Ahmed Al-Jumaili, a Muslim man who'd just arrived from Iraq, has focused international attention on the northeast Dallas neighborhood where he was staying. He was outside with his wife and brother, taking photos during the snowstorm, when he was shot. No one's been arrested, and that's left his neighbors uneasy.

Credit Stella M. Chavez / KERA News
Jose Martinez works at an auto shop in the neighborhood where the shooting took place.

Jose Martinez has worked in his family’s tire shop near the corner of Walnut Street and Audelia Road for four years. It’s down the street from the apartment complex where Al-Jumaili was killed. Martinez says a lot of illicit activity takes place in the area – drug deals and prostitution – especially at night.\

Martinez says his family has considered moving its business – the shop's been vandalized, last year a police officer was shot across the street, and a few days ago, a woman was shot in the leg at a nearby apartment complex.

"The crime here has escalated real bad in the past years," Martinez says. "It seems like every day, it just keeps getting worse and worse."

Though the national and international headlines have focused on potential racial angles to last week's shooting, police say they don't know whether it was a hate crime.

And they describe a scene on the night of March 4 that started out almost magical.

"Mr. Jumali had never seen snow," Jeff Cotner with the Dallas Police Department said at a press conference. "Just like all of us, a pretty snowfall brings the child out in us. And you can just imagine the excitement between his wife and his brother and himself as they were enjoying the snowfall."

After shots were fired, Cotner says, Al-Jumaili yelled out, “I’m hit.” 

Credit Stella M. Chavez / KERA News
Norma Rangel lives across the hall from the Iraqi couple.

  Nora Rangel lives in the apartment across the hall from Al-Jumaili and his wife Zahraa. The shots startled her daughter.

"She stood up and shouted, 'Mom, I hear gunshots," Rangel said. "We didn't want to go outside, so we looked out the windows from the balcony. That's when I saw the man's wife running..."

"A few seconds passed and the woman began screaming, 'Somebody help me!"

They opened their apartment door and saw an injured Al-Jumaili bleeding near his door. Rangel’s daughter and husband each called 911. The weather was deteriorating.

"The snow was coming down hard and it was very windy," Rangel said. "They moved his body inside the apartment."

Al-Jumaili was taken to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, where he died.

Police believe the shots came from a rifle, but they’re trying to figure out if one or more guns were used. Four men were caught on surveillance video walking in the complex. Rewards totaling $12,000 are being offered.

Alia Salem, executive director of the local Council on American Islamic Relations, says she's still worried that it might have been a hate crime.

"This is a tragedy that has brought extreme heartache upon the family and extreme heartache upon the community," she says. "There is no shortage of sadness for the loss of this beautiful young man who has only just come to this country 20 days ago."

Stella M. Chávez is KERA’s immigration/demographics reporter/blogger. Her journalism roots run deep: She spent a decade and a half in newspapers – including seven years at The Dallas Morning News, where she covered education and won the Livingston Award for National Reporting, which is given annually to the best journalists across the country under age 35.