A 17-year-old Muslim girl was assaulted and killed after leaving a Virginia mosque on Monday, in a murder case that isn’t being investigated as a hate crime, police said.
Darwin Martinez Torres, 22, was charged with murder in the death of Nabra Hassanen, who went missing after leaving the All Dulles Area Muslim Society in Reston, Virginia on Sunday morning.
Hassanen and a group of other teens had gotten out of early morning mosque services and were just leaving breakfast at a nearby IHOP when a motorist approached them aggressively, causing most of them to run back toward the mosque, The Washington Post reported.
When the teens arrived at the mosque, they reported that Hassanen was left behind.
Police searched for hours in an attempt to locate the missing girl, only to locate what appeared to be her remains at about 3 pm. They arrested Torres during the search after noticing him driving suspiciously and allegedly finding several items of evidence in his car, police said.
Hassanen’s mother, Sawsan Gazzar, reportedly told the Washington Post that Nabra was beaten with a metal bat. She believes her daughter was killed because of her religion.
“I think it had to do with the way she was dressed and the fact that she’s Muslim,” Gazzar said. “Why would you kill a kid? What did my daughter do to deserve this?”
Hassanen, who was not very religiously observant, did not normally wear traditional Muslim clothes, her mother said, but had borrowed an abaya from her mom to wear during Ramadan. During the month-long celebration of Ramadan, Muslims traditionally have big feasts after sundown followed by late night prayer services, often concluding with an early morning breakfast to prepare for a day of fasting from sunrise to sunset. This made the 24-hour IHOP near Hassanen’s mosque a popular destination for Muslim teens—Hassanen had safely eaten there with her friends during Ramadan just the year before, her mother said.
Police did not say why they are not investigating the murder as a hate crime in their intial tweet, but many on social media immediately questioned the decision.
“This is the question that I’ve gotten for the last four hours,” said Don Gotthardt, a public information officer for the Fairfax County Police, when Oxygen asked him why the his department specified that this was not being investigated as a hate crime. "The intent of the tweet was to quell the public’s anxiety.”
"We have no information to indicate that it was" a hate crime," he added, but said that as the investigation uncovers more information about the suspect's motives, police may still consider bringing hate crime charges against him.