Virginia police: Killing a Muslim teen outside a mosque isn’t a hate crime

Fairfax County police charged Darwin Martinez Torres with murder Sunday in the death of 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen. Authorities are not investigating the incident as a hate crime.

Torres, 22, allegedly assaulted Hassanen outside the All Dulles Area Muslim Society Center at around 4 a.m. Sunday morning while she was walking back from breakfast at a nearby IHOP with three or four other teenagers. A motorist approached in his car and confronted the group. The others ran inside the mosque but Hassanen tripped, Hassanen’s mother Sawsan Gazzar said a detective told her. Torres allegedly struck Hassanen with a metal bat. She was not seen again. Loudon County and Fairfax County authorities began a missing person search and found what is believed to be Hassanen’s body in a pond in Sterling, Virginia around 3 p.m. Sunday.

“We are devastated and heartbroken as our community undergoes and processes this traumatic event,” the ADAMS Center said in a statement. “It is a time for us to come together to pray and care for our youth.”

The killing took place days before the holiday Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of Ramadan. Sunday night at Gazzar’s apartment in Reston, more than 30 women gathered to comfort each other. Via The Washington Post:

At the center of the crowded, dimly lit living room was Nabra’s mother, Sawsan Gazzar.

“Please pray for me, please pray for me,” Gazzar sobbed in Arabic. Her phone rang constantly. To her brother and sister in her native Egypt, she said, “Pray for me that I can handle this . . . I lost my daughter, my first reason for happiness.”

Gazzar believes her daughter was attacked for wearing the traditional Muslim cloak known as the abaya. “I think it had to do with the way she was dressed and the fact that she’s Muslim,” she said. “Why would you kill a kid? What did my daughter do to deserve this?”

The murder occurred hours before a driver killed one and injured 10 outside a London mosque Monday, an incident police are investigation as an act of terrorism. The ADAMS Center started employing a paid security guard after six people were killed at a Quebec mosque earlier this year, according to Arsalan Iftikhar, a lawyer who was at the ADAMS Center early Sunday morning.

“People are petrified, especially people who have young Muslim daughters,” Iftikhar said.

You can donate to a GoFundMe supporting Hassanen’s family here.

UPDATE, 4:00 p.m.: Fairfax County police spokesperson Don Gotthard said that the department hasn’t ruled out opening a hate crime investigation, despite tweeting against the possibility Monday. From BuzzFeed News:

When contacted by BuzzFeed News later, police spokesperson Don Gotthardt said that the nature of the investigation wasn’t “as definitive” as the tweet made it out to be. Gotthardt said that their tweet could have been “crafted a little better” and could have left some “wiggle room” about the nature of the investigation.

He said that police currently do not have information indicating a “correlation between the victim’s faith and the crime itself.” However, he added that if there was any indication into a “future possible connection to her religion” as the investigation progressed, then police would “certainly” look into it.

[photos: All Dulles Area Muslim Society Center, Fairfax County Police]