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Iraqi Refugee Death Puts Spotlight On Crime-Ridden Dallas Neighborhood


The murder of a newly arrived immigrant in Dallas has drawn international attention. The victim was a 36-year-old man from Iraq. He had barely escaped the violence in Baghdad and was living in Texas when he was gunned down in the parking lot of his apartment complex. Police have not made any arrest. Stella Chavez, of member station KERA, reports on how the dreams of someone seeking a better life quickly came to an end.

STELLA CHAVEZ, BYLINE: Less than a month ago, Ahmed Al-Jumaili's wife and family threw a celebration. There were balloons and confetti. Neighbors thought it was a birthday party, but the family was actually celebrating a reunion. The couple had been apart a year. His wife, Zahraa, came to the U.S. first to get settled. A few days after the party, the couple was outside marveling at the snowfall and taking photos.


JEFF COTNER: Mr. Jumaili had never seen snow.

CHAVEZ: That's Jeff Cotner with the Dallas Police Department speaking at a recent press conference. The night for them was almost magical.


COTNER: Just like, you know, 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 snow fall.

CHAVEZ: That was the same night shots were fired. Cotner says Al-Jumaili yelled out I'm hit and ran back to his apartment. Norma Rangel lives in the unit across from Al-Jumaili and his wife. She and her family heard the gunshots and saw their neighbors running.

NORMA RANGEL: (Through interpreter) A few seconds passed and the woman began screaming somebody help me.

CHAVEZ: They opened their apartment door and saw Al-Jumaili on the ground. They called 911 and he died later in the hospital. Jose Martinez works at a tire shop down the street. He says a lot of illicit activity takes place in the neighborhood - drug deals, prostitution, especially at night. This part of Dallas is a community of immigrants, where many refugees have been resettled, looking for a better life far from the violence of war-torn countries.

JOSE MARTINEZ: I mean, the crime here has escalated, like, real bad in the past years - in the four or five years, I mean. It's been real bad. I mean, it seems that every day just keeps getting worser and worser.

CHAVEZ: Police say Al-Jumaili was killed by a rifle, and there's no motive. Four men were recorded on an apartment complex surveillance video. Alia Salem, executive director of the local Council on American Islamic Relations, says this has made her community feel unsafe.


ALIA SALEM: This is a tragedy that has brought extreme heartache upon the family and extreme heartache upon the community. 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.

CHAVEZ: Dallas police Major Cotner says he doesn't know if this was a hate crime against a Muslim family, but he's struck by how senseless this killing is.


COTNER: He was certainly leaving a country where he didn't have any opportunity and he was looking forward to the opportunities that our country provides.

CHAVEZ: The local Muslim community is raising money to help Al-Jumaili's family as they piece back their lives without him. For NPR News, I'm Stella Chavez in Dallas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Stella Chavez