The Fairfax County Police Department (FCPD) announced a murder charge against Darwin Martinez Torres yesterday (June 18) for allegedly killing 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen. Police attribute the killing to "road rage," but the Muslim teen’s parents blamed Islamophobic racism in statements to The Guardian and The Washington Post.
We are NOT investigating this murder as a hate crime. https://t.co/f6TegmdKMR pic.twitter.com/mlGzrQfiMk
— Fairfax Co. Police (@fairfaxpolice) June 19, 2017
"This tragic case appears to be the result of a road rage incident involving the suspect, who was driving and who is now charged with murder, and a group of teenagers who was walking and riding bikes in and along a roadway," the FCPD said in a statement issed today (June 19) that echoes the tweet above. "Our investigation at this point does not indicate the victim was targeted because of her race or religion." The statement follows a previous one that says the department uncovered what detectives believed to be Hassanen’s remains in an area pond almost 12 hours after she was reported missing early yesterday morning.
Buzzfeed reports that the teen and several friends were walking and riding bicycles from McDonald’s at about 3:30 a.m. Sunday morning. They were returning to the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) after having broken their Ramadan fast. Both ADAMS and department officials say that a driver and the teens got into an altercation before the assailant, now identified as Torres, attacked Hassanen. The rest of Hassanen’s group fled to ADAMS before realizing Hassanen wasn’t there. Mosque leaders then called police.
Mahmoud Hassanen, the slain teen’s father, told The Guardian today that the remains found yesterday afternoon belong to Nabra. He said that he believes the killer targeted his daughter and her friends because of their clothing, which identified them as Muslim: "He followed the girls, and all of them had headcloths, meaning they are Muslim, and he had a baseball stick."
Hassanen’s mother Sawan Gazzzar echoed that sentiment to The Washington Post. "I’m sure the guy hit my daughter because she’s Muslim and she was wearing the hijab," she said. "The thing in my head is, why did he do that to us? We’re not bad people. He doesn’t know us. Why did he ever do that? I don’t feel safe at all anymore, as a Muslim living here now. I’m so worried about sending my kids out and their coming back as bodies."
Anonymous family members of Torres’ told The Post that he originally hails from El Salvador. The Post added that Torres spoke through a Spanish translator at today’s court hearing.
The department tweeted earlier today that it will hold a press conference to further address Hassanen’s killing at 6 p.m. EDT.