Remembering Victims of Hate Crimes
September 29 was shaping up as just another Saturday for Abdo Ali Ahmed. At 7 a.m., the 51-year-old Muslim from Yemen crossed the dusty lot from his family's modest home to his convenience store to begin a 14-hour workday.
He unlocked the doors and waited for customers to drop by for coffee, smokes and quiet conversation on their way to the orchards and packing houses of California's Central Valley.
Two days before, outside a supermarket in nearby Dinuba, Ahmed had found a death-threat note on his car's windshield: "We're going to kill all you [expletive] Arabs."
According to family members, it wasn't the first threat Ahmed had gotten since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on Washington and New York.
When taunted or threatened in person, Ahmed would calmly reply, "I am a citizen." When he found the note, he balled it up and threw it in the trash, telling one of his eight children not to bother calling the police. "God will take care of it," he said.
But around 4 p.m. that Saturday afternoon, the threats were made real. Ahmed was shot three times in the torso, a few feet from the American flag he had taped in the window of his East Reedley Market.
Witnesses in the Hawg Jaws Bar next door saw two teenage men hop in a car with two others and speed away. Ahmed crawled into the bar, crumpled on the floor and died in his wife's arms while waiting for medical attention.
Three months later, Fatima Ahmed remained incapacitated by grief. "When they killed my husband," she said, "they killed me."
The Fresno County Sheriff's Department investigated Ahmed's murder as a botched robbery. They had made no arrests when this issue of the Intelligence Report went to press.
Mohammad Rocka, a local activist, summed up sentiments in the local Muslim community: "Mr. Ahmed is one more victim of the tragedy of Sept. 11."
Kenneth Chiu, 17
Laguna Hills, Calif.
It's not supposed to happen in a place where Mediterranean-style homes, featuring three-car garages and plentiful palm trees, sell for $750,000.
It's not supposed to happen to a nice kid like Kenny Chiu, a rising senior who played on Laguna Hills High's varsity golf team and was summed up by his assistant principal as "a good boy and a good student who was always courteous and respectful."
But it did happen, around midnight on July 30. When Chiu came home from visiting a friend, he was stabbed several times in his family's driveway.
Alerted to the stabbing, Orange County deputies found Chiu barely alive, lying in a pool of blood just a few feet away from his family's Lexus SUV. They also found an anti-Asian epithet scratched into the SUV. Chiu's family was Taiwanese-American.
Chiu was rushed to nearby Mission Hospital, where he died about an hour later. Among his last words, he was able to identify his alleged assailant: next-door neighbor Christopher Hearn, a 20-year-old deaf mute another neighbor described as "just pure anger."
Hearn was charged with first-degree murder, and with two special circumstances that allow California prosecutors to seek the death penalty: lying in wait and killing because of ethnicity.
Marcell Eads, 58
"We're going to party," Marcell Eads told his niece on the night of June 28. The 58-year-old Wichita man had met 18-year-old Zachary Steward a few years before, when Eads was working as a hair stylist.
Lately he had told friends and family members that he was having an affair with Steward. After drying out in rehab and taking classes to become a drug counselor, Eads had also started drinking again.
"Hey, you be careful," his niece replied. "You don't know what kids are up to these days."
The kids — Steward and his 16-year-old friend, Brandon Boone — allegedly beat Eads severely that night with a rock, a broomstick and the end of a table, an attack so brutal that it appeared to have been motivated by hate.
Police said the teenagers left Eads' small bungalow with his stereo and computer, then returned later to set the place on fire. "Maybe they decided they hadn't killed him yet," Eads' sister, Emily Frederick, told the Intelligence Report.
By the time he was dragged out of his house by firefighters, Eads was dead from burns and smoke inhalation.
At a preliminary hearing, Boone's girlfriend testified that on the night of the killing she heard Steward say he was angry that Eads had propositioned him. She said Steward used an anti-gay slur to describe Eads, and asked Boone to go with him to beat up the man and steal things from his home.
Steward and Boone both blamed the violence on Eads' supposed unwanted sexual advances. They blamed each other for beating Eads nearly to death, and for setting the fire.
Both were charged with first-degree murder, aggravated arson, aggravated burglary and aggravated robbery — but not with a hate crime, which would have enhanced their sentences under Kansas law.
Frederick said she asked the investigators "explicitly if this was a hate crime, and they just danced around it. They were going for murder, arson and robbery."
In January, Steward was sentenced to life plus six years in prison. He will be eligible for parole in 25 years. Boone was expected to be tried as an adult early this year.