Man accused of murdering Muslims in Albuquerque was charged with beating family members

ALBUQUERQUE – Afghan man accused of killing two Muslim men in Albuquerque has been charged with a series of assaults in recent years, accused of beating his wife and son and assaulting a man his daughter was dating , according to police data released Wednesday.

Each time, prosecutors dismissed charges against the man, Muhammad Syed, 51, who is now the prime suspect in the deaths of four Muslim men — three of them in a recent ten-day period — which shocked the close-knit Muslim. municipality in Albuquerque.

Mr. Syed, who is also a Muslim, was arrested Monday by police officers who stopped his car about 100 miles from the Texas state line. In a criminal charge, a police officer wrote that Mr. Syed said he was driving to Houston to find a new place for his family because things were “bad” in Albuquerque, and he referred to the recent shootings.

Police said they found a gun in the car and a worn bullet casing between the windshield and the dashboard. Tests on the gun, casing used and casings found at the scene of an Aug. 1 murder were all a suspected match, police wrote in the indictment.

Mr Syed’s arrest was quickly followed on Wednesday by the arrest of one of his sons, Shaheen Syed, who was accused by federal prosecutors of lying about where he lived when he bought two guns last year.

Police records from The New York Times show that the elderly Mr. Syed had a series of fights with relatives in recent years that had at times turned physical.

In one case, in 2017, he refused to let his daughter leave home to attend a lecture without being accompanied by one of her brothers, according to an officer’s report, which said the daughter had swelling around her. eye, but had asked the police not to arrest her father.

Mr Syed was arrested less than a year later when his wife told police he grabbed her by the hair while she was driving and later threw her to the ground in the waiting room of a personnel service. Then, in December 2018, police arrived at Mr. Syed’s home and found his son with a cut on the back of his head. The son said his father beat him and his mother with a spoon during an argument.

At least two other fights involved a man who was in a relationship with Mr Syed’s daughter, Lubna Syed, now 25, according to police records.

In December 2017, several months after the altercation with his daughter, police arrested Mr. Syed when Mrs. Syed’s friend reported that Mr. Syed, his wife, and one of their sons had pulled him from Mrs. Syed’s car and had him beaten until he was bloodied and bruised. The boyfriend told police that Mr. Syed and his family had attacked him for disapproving of the relationship.

Police found Mr Syed in the emergency room of a hospital with a cut to his chest several hours later. He told police his daughter’s boyfriend stabbed him with a knife after he and his wife confronted him about the relationship, according to a police report.

Two months later, the same man reported to police that Mr. Syed had threatened to kill him during an argument over the relationship, but the man refused to press charges, according to a police report of that incident. Documents show that the man and Lubna Syed bought a house in Albuquerque together in November 2021.

In all three cases in which Mr. Syed was charged, prosecutors ultimately dismissed the cases because the victims — his son, his wife and his daughter’s friend — refused to pursue the charges, a spokeswoman for the officer’s office said. of justice of Bernalillo County. .

Mr. Syed’s home is tucked into a row of one-story homes near the Albuquerque airport. Three women in headscarves opened the door of his house to reveal a wall in the living room covered with an Afghan flag. One of the women, who appeared to be in his twenties, said the family was unwilling to discuss the charges.

In the complaint released Wednesday, police cited ballistic evidence as part of what led them to arrest Mr Syed on suspicion of carrying out the August 1 murder of Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, a 27-year-old urban planner, and the July 26 murder of Aftab Hussein, 41, who worked in a cafe. Police have also said they consider Mr Syed the “most likely” suspect in the murder of 62-year-old Mohammad Ahmadi in November 2021 and that of 25-year-old Naeem Hussain last Friday.

Syed appeared before a judge via video feed Wednesday afternoon, with his hands handcuffed and chained to his ankles. He wore orange sandals and a red jumpsuit with the words “High Risk” on the back.

Through a Pashto interpreter, Mr Syed asked permission to “talk for myself.” But his lawyer asked the court not to take any statement from her client, and the judge encouraged Mr. Syed to follow his lawyer’s advice and not speak up.

“What you think is right sounds good,” replied Mr. Syed.

Judge Renée Torres said she would refer the case to a district court, where it would be decided whether bail would be set.

Mr Syed arrived in the United States about six years ago and has known the most recent victim, Naeem Hussain, since 2016, according to police charges, which do not further describe the men’s relationship.

Mr. Hussain, who had family roots in Afghanistan and Pakistan, had worked as a case worker for Lutheran Family Services, which helped resettle many Afghan families in Albuquerque before starting his own transportation company.

mr. Hussain was shot in the parking lot of the resettlement office hours after he attended a funeral for the two victims of which Mr. Syed has been charged with murder. Farid Sharifi, the agency’s program director, declined to say whether the group had helped resettle Mr. Syed’s family.

New Mexico is home to about 1,500 Afghans, a community that has grown significantly since the US withdrawal from Afghanistan last year. About 500 of them are evacuees who were brought to the United States after the fall of Kabul to the Taliban in August 2021.

Mr Syed told police that according to the complaint, he had fought with that country’s special forces against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Mr Sharifi, the resettlement agency’s program director, said the community is “really shocked” by the recent killings and that his office has been inundated with calls from concerned evacuees.

“The refugees have experienced terrible events and have tried to get their lives back on track here,” said 40-year-old Mr. Sharifi, who immigrated to the United States from Afghanistan as a child.

After Mr. Syed’s arrest, police searched his home early Tuesday morning and found two guns, one in Mr. Syed’s room and one in the room of Shaheen Syed, the son later charged with lying to buy the guns. The son said he bought a gun with his father in July, while his father also bought a gun, according to the charges. Police said the elderly Mr. Syed bought a rifle scope for his rifle on Aug. 1.

Police said both victims Mohammed Syed is accused of murdering were shot more than once. A detective wrote in the indictment that the gunman who killed Aftab Hussein appeared to have waited in the bushes near where Mr. Hussein parked his car and then shot Mr. Hussein as he stepped outside. Several bullet casings were found at the scene.

Six days later, police said, Muhammad Afzaal Hussain was video calling a friend at about 8:35 p.m. when he told the friend to go and take another call. Hussain was shot about 40 minutes later and found on a sidewalk about a block from a nearby park. Police said they found seven 9-millimeter shell casings at the scene that were later identified as likely matching the gun in Mr. Syed’s car, and seven shell casings of a different type that matched those found at the scene. the murder of Mr. Hussein. .

Muhammad Afzaal Hussain’s older brother, Muhammad Imtiaz Hussain, said in an interview that he had decided not to send his brother’s body to relatives in Pakistan to be buried there because his brother had been shot so many times that he was unrecognizable. He said the killer “wanted to finish him – the whole nine meters”.

Neelam Bohra reporting contributed. Kitty Bennett research contributed.

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