ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Albuquerque Police are investigating a violent hate crime. Investigators say a man pushed his way into a home, attacked a woman and tore up her family’s U.S. citizenship papers, all because he thought she was Muslim.
The family is frightened, and told KRQE News 13 they came to America because they were persecuted in Iraq years ago. They never thought it would happen in the U.S.
Seham Jaber described to News 13 a terrifying attack in her native Arabic tongue. It was mid-day last week and her husband had just left the couple’s Albuquerque apartment, when someone rang the doorbell.
She opened the door thinking it was her husband. She said a masked man wearing gloves began punching her in the face, cursing and shouting nasty remarks about Muslims.
The suspect hit her repeatedly and asked about money and gold.
“The irony is the individual thought the family was Muslim, and they’re actually refugees from Iraq who are Catholic,” explained officer Simon Drobik, of the Albuquerque Police Department.
The family fled Iraq six years ago, since they’d been attacked by terrorists there. Last year they became U.S. citizens.
The suspect ransacked the family’s home, stole jewelry and money. He also found the family’s citizenship documents in a back room and ripped them to pieces in front of Jaber.
Her husband described coming home to see his wife lying on the floor, her face beaten. She’d been punched in the chest and stomach and was barely breathing. The man helped his wife as his son called 911.
“It’s disappointing that this still happens,” said Drobik. “These people came from a different country to get a better life in our country, and then for them to be victimized after that war-torn country, it’s pretty horrible.”
The family told News 13 they didn’t feel safe in Iraq. They were told they’d find a better life in the United States. Now bruised in more ways than one, Jaber and her family said they no longer feel safe here, like someone is watching them. And they hope police can catch the man responsible.
The family said they’re not sure yet how difficult it will be to replace their citizenship documents and they have no idea who would do something like this.
The suspect is described as tall white male with blue eyes and medium build. He was wearing a black mask, blue gloves, a yellow shirt and blue jeans.
No arrest has been made and the FBI now is investigating the case as a possible federal hate crime, Albuquerque police said Friday.