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Amid lingering questions about hate and rage, Nabra Hassanen remembered for her kindness

Nabra Hassanen is remembered by those who knew her as a compassionate and insightful 17-year-old.
A dead-of-night assault near the Loudoun-Fairfax county line has left lingering questions about hate and rage and community.

The killing, the details of which are still trickling out, came Sunday. Seventeen-year-old Nabra Hassanen and friends were returning for an overnight event at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society mosque in Sterling from the nearby McDonald's around 3:40 a.m. ADAMS was hosting observance prayers for the holy month of Ramadan.

According to the Fairfax County Police Department, detectives believe 22-year-old Darwin Martinez Torres came upon the teens while he was driving. An initial investigation revealed a teenage boy on a bike began arguing with Torres, who then drove his car onto the curb as the group scattered. Witnesses say Torres soon caught up with them in a nearby parking lot and got out of his car armed with a baseball bat. Torres began chasing the group, and he eventually caught up with Hassanen.

According to FCPD, “his anger over the encounter led to violence when he hit Nabra with a baseball bat. Torres then took Nabra with him in his car to a second location nearby in Loudoun County.”

When the group of kids realized Hassanen was missing, they reported the incident to the Fairfax County authorities, which began the investigation as a missing person case.
After heavy patrol and canvassing all Sunday by the Fairfax police and Loudoun County Sheriff's Office, Hasssanen's dead body was found in a pond in the 21500 block of Ridegtop Circle around 3 p.m.

Torres was charged with murder Sunday afternoon.

Detectives have not released exactly where Hassanen was killed, whether in Loudoun County or Fairfax County.

After some deliberation over which jurisdiction would handle Torres' prosecution, officials announced Tuesday that the case would stay in Fairfax because that's where the investigation began.

Fairfax County officials say they do not believe the case will be treated as a federal hate crime, although they have not ruled out the possibility.

“There is nothing to indicate at this point this tragic case was a hate crime,” reads statement from the Fairfax County Police Department. “No evidence has been uncovered that shows this murder was motivated by race or religion. It appears the suspect became so enraged over the traffic dispute it escalated into deadly violence. If during the course of this ongoing criminal investigation, information or evidence later surfaces that would indicate this was hate-motivated, detectives would certainly ensure appropriate charges are filed.”

Darwin Martinez Torres


Still, justice advocacy groups, including the Anti-Defamation League, are encouraging police to not dismiss the possibility of a hate crime.

"Such incidents send shock waves through the entire community and have the potential to make communities feel unsafe and vulnerable," said Doron F. Ezickson, the Washington D.C. regional director for the Anti-Defamation League. "We must come together to send an opposing message that all people, regardless of their religious or ethnic background, are safe, welcome and protected. The Muslim community should know that we stand united with them during this extremely difficult time.”

A Council on American-Islamic Relations spokesman also said it's too early to rule out the possibility of a hate crime.

Hassanen's family too has indicated they believe the attack should be treated as a hate crime.

Hate crimes typically carry stiffer penalties than crimes without a bias component.

As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 26,000 people had signed an online petition urging the Virginia Division of Human Rights and the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the murder as a bias-fueled killing.

Tawny Wright, a spokeswoman for the FCPD, said investigators continue to pour over the details and conduct interviews.

Asked whether detectives believe Hassanen was sexually assaulted before her death – as some news reports have speculated – Wright said that possibility would be included in the all-encompassing investigation. The medical examiner's autopsy could also lead to new evidence about Hassanen's death, Wright said.

'An angel was taken'

At the ADAMS Center Tuesday, Chaplain Joshua Salaam said Hassanen was a beautiful and thoughtful young woman who encouraged her friends to “give to people who are in need, even if it’s your last dollar,” and to “befriend people who other people don’t like.”

“If you knew her you might possibly know why it was so hard for this community,” said Salaam. “An angel was taken.”

Hassanen’s father said he hopes his community will “express love always to one another” regardless of religion or race.

Vigils were planned across the country Tuesday and Wednesday in remembrance of Hassanen.

Michelle Salehi, 17, stood outside the ADAMS Center Wednesday before Hassanen's funeral.

“I think it was definitely scary for everyone in our area and Muslims in general,” Salehi said. “Because we are that age, we go out all the time and we don't have any worries being out, but now everyone is more scared.”

But Salehi found some bright spots from the tragedy, saying she thinks “it's amazing how the entire Muslim community is coming together just to support her and this one thing.”

Hassanen's neighbor, Salas Salis, was also outside ADAMS ahead of the funeral.

“I've known her since she was in the second grade,” Salis said. “She's so quiet, she's so nice. She never hurt somebody, she's so polite. And the whole community, they broke heart for what has happened, so we look for justice.”

Salis said her daughter and Hassanen played together in school.

“Always she generous, always she invite the people at her home for the dinner,” Salis said. “And even when they be outside in restaurant she try to pay for the all friends … We miss Nabra, and we're going to miss her.”

Comments


I sort of feel like the road rage thing doesn’t apply. He did not go after the boy that said something to him, he went after a girl in the group-specifically…it is one of those grey areas.


I fought the bat and the bat won.


Well, Mr. Torres was certainly filled with hate. One does not commit such a brutal act without hatred in the heart. It is interesting that Yeshua equated hatred to actual murder:  “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” (1 John 3:15)  Very strong words. We all need to let that sink in.

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