As the investigation continues into who killed an Iraqi immigrant inside her El Cajon home, her family prepared to fly her body home to Iraq for burial and her friends planned to gather at a Lakeside mosque to honor her memory.
El Cajon police homicide investigators will work with the FBI to determine if the beating death of Shaima Alawadi, 32, was a hate crime or something else.
Sadaf T. Hane, Civil Rights Director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, appeared on MSNBC to discuss the comparisons being made between Alawadi’s killing and the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Florida.
Hane said it’s important to give the police time to investigate all potential motives.
“We didn’t know such a violent attack could happen in our own back yards,” Hane said.
“This is the potentially most violent crime that has been committed against an Iraqi, an American Muslim, in our community,” she added.
Alawadi and her husband rented the home on Skyview Street just two months ago. The couple’s 17-year-old daughter discovered her mother in the dining room of the home on March 21. Alawadi had suffered a severe head injury and died three days later.
Her daughter told local television reporters a threatening note found near her mother’s body referred to her family as terrorists. El Cajon Police Chief Jim Redman refused to reveal the contents of the note but did describe it as “threatening” and similar to another note that had been found near the home within the last month. The previous note was unreported.
A memorial service was held at the Islamic Center in Lakeside at 4 p.m. Tuesday and a representative of the government of Iraq is expected to attend.
Alawadi's father is Sayed Nabeel Alawadi, a Shiite cleric in Iraq, a Muslim leader in Michigan told the Detroit Free-Press.
"One of her dreams was that she would work and bridge the gap between the Christian and Muslim community," said Hanif Mohebi from the Center of American-Islamic Relations.
Hayder Al-Zayadi, a family friend, told the Free-Press that Alawadi moved to the United States in 1993 with her family and was part of a wave of Shiite Muslim refugees who fled to Michigan after Saddam Hussein cracked down on an uprising in 1991.
After living in Dearborn for a few years, she moved to the San Diego area in 1996, graduated from high school and became a housewife raising five children, Al-Zayadi said.
Approximately 50-60,000 Middle Eastern immigrants and refugees reside in El Cajon.