Shooting suspect was baptized
Just part of the enigma he proved himself to friends
By SCOTT GUTIERREZ
RICHLAND -- Those who knew Naveed Haq said Saturday that to them he was an enigma, a puzzle that they wish they could have solved before his deadly rampage in a Seattle Jewish center.
Stunned and saddened by the news, some of Haq's acquaintances recounted many of what they saw as the contradictions of his life.
He held a degree in electrical engineering and was the son of a successful engineer, yet he couldn't keep a regular job. He was smart, creative and skilled as a writer. He recently won an essay contest for a U.S. Institute of Peace scholarship.
Yet Haq was frustrated at his lack of friends and female companionship.He told friends he felt alienated from his own family, in part because his career had disappointed his father and also because he had disavowed Islam last year, converting to Christianity.
Haq had begun studying the Bible, attending weekly men's spiritual group meetings, only to stop coming a few months after his baptism.
He had told the group's leader that he seen too much anger in Islam and that he wanted to find a new beginning in Christianity.
Yet in the midst of his shooting spree in Seattle Friday, he declared himself an angry Muslim.
Acquaintances said he never seemed the fanatic religious extremist he played out on Friday. Instead some think his anger was really directed at problems in his personal and professional life.
"Naveed had the profile of the guy who just couldn't get things together," said Erik Neilsen, a Richland resident who let Haq live with him for three months in 2004. He said he thinks several problems compounded for Haq, and he just exploded.
"I wish I could have done something about it. I look back in retrospect and say 'Is there anything I could have done.'"
Last winter, Haq began attending a weekly men's group meeting led by a member of the Word of Faith Church in Kennewick.
The group's leader, Albert Montelongo, said Haq started studying the Bible and in December he underwent a water baptism at the non-denominational church, performed by Montelongo. He said Haq accepted his new faith, though he knew that he would also be offending his own family and its deeply rooted culture. His father, Mian Haq, was among the founders of the Islamic Center of the Tri-Cities in Richland.
Montelongo said Haq seemed depressed by the tension that had grown between him and his family. And he said Haq talked about suffering from bipolar disorder. But that he seemed to improve in how he coped with what Montelongo described as his own anger.
A few months after he was baptized, though, Haq stopped coming to the men's group meetings. Montelongo last heard from Haq in a message that said he was going to Seattle to find a job. He said he tried to call Haq several times but never reached him.
Then on Friday, Montelongo said he saw the news in Seattle and thought the man in police custody looked like Haq.
"I don't understand that. That throws me off from everything he was doing here," Montelongo said. "That blew me away."
"We'll be praying for him and everybody that was hurt in what happened, and everybody that's involved in it," Montelongo said.
At the Islamic Center of Tri-Cities, a senior member, Muhammad Kaleem Ullah, said that Haq stopped attending regularly after he graduated from Richland High School in 1994. He said Haq would attend off and on while visiting his parents and that he surprised members on a Friday two weeks ago with a visit.
"This is a totally sad day for us. This is the closest I've ever come to something like this," said Ullah. "What could have been going on in his brain has been very hard to figure out."
After high school, Haq enrolled in dentistry school at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., something his father encouraged. But after about four years of study, Haq decided to quit school and return home. That also created some tension between father and son, Ullah said.
Instead Haq went to Washington State University, where he earned a degree in electrical engineering.
Efforts to reach his family were unsuccessful.
In March, Haq was arrested for lewd conduct at a Tri-Cities mall. It was Ullah he called to bail him out of jail, because he was too embarrassed to call his own family, Ullah said.
The family was very distraught at Friday's events, Ullah said, based on a conversation he had with Haq's father after his son's arrest.
Haq apparently moved back and forth between Tri-Cities and Seattle while he was looking for employment. At one point, he told Neilsen, the friend with whom he lived for a few months in 2004, that he was working as a security guard at a Seattle area department store. Neilsen said he'd lost touch with Haq until about six weeks ago when he got an e-mail from Haq, saying his friend had started work at a Home Depot store in Everett.
He said it seemed odd that someone with a degree in engineering had taken an unskilled job. It seemed to him that Haq had trouble keeping steady employment and that he often lacked focus in his career.
Neilsen said he thinks Haq's issues with family, his religion and even his social life just compounded. He said he believed his friend wanted desperately to fit into mainstream U.S. society. But he felt like an outcast in his own family.
Neilsen, a fellow engineer, said he was deeply saddened at Friday's news.
"I've had conversations with him; he'd come over and we'd have a cigar in my back yard and have a nice talk. And all of a sudden, it's like 'What happened? What happened to you?'."
Scott Gutierrez can be reached at 206-448-8334 or firstname.lastname@example.org