Shooting stuns community
By Eleni Economides, STAFF WRITER
Inside Bay AreaArticle Last Updated:10/21/2006 07:55:17 AM PDT
FREMONT — On the sidewalk where Alia Ansari was slain in broad daylight, family members and community residents gathered Friday evening for an impromptu vigil. "This is dedicated to Alia Ansari, who lost her life yesterday in a tragic incident," said Hassan Ansari, Alia's youngest brother, as he choked back tears.
"She has six kids and a loving husband, and all her family here will miss her very much."
About 20 family and friends stood insilence, weeping and staring at the sidewalk where Ansari died as they lighted candles near a growing pile of flowers, balloons and stuffed animals.
Ansari, 38, was shot and killed about 2:40 p.m. Thursday as she was walking hand-in-hand with her 3-year-old daughter to pick up her other children from nearby Glenmoor Elementary School, police said.
Her charcoal Toyota minivan sat parked outside her apartment Friday. Apparently it had overheated a few days before. Her husband is a mechanic but had been working as many as 12 hours a day and hadn't got around to fixing it, relatives said.
Although the exact sequence of events in Thursday's shooting is still unclear, witnesses say a gunman shot Ansari once at point-blank range before fleeing in a small black Toyota or BMW with a spoiler.
Fremont police have detained a 27-year-old "person of interest" in the crime but have not released further details of the investigation.
Inside Ansari's home, a small, sparsely decorated, two-bedroom Glenmoor Drive apartment, the wailing and crying of women echoed as male family members stood outside, quietly grieving.
Solemn visitors approached Ansari's family, most of whom emigrated to Fremont from Afghanistan, and offered condolences.
"This is so hard to grasp — she was such a harmless person," said Ali Ansari, Alia Ansari's first cousin.
"We are in shock. I mean, why could this happen to someone so innocent? She was a sister to all of us — a caring mother and a humble and respectful person. It's hard to believe — this could have been anybody. It hurts us all."
Only the oldest children knew what really happened to their mother.
"I don't know how the 3-year-old is processing it," said Amin Ansari. "She thinks her mom is in the hospital and coming home soon."
Because Ansari was wearing the hijab — traditional Muslim head scarf — at the time of her slaying, some of her family members speculated that the crime could be racially motivated.
"I know she was wearing her hijab — and she had no problems before with anybody," Hamoyon Ansari said the day of the slaying.
He went on to say that there would be no other reason that someone "would do this."
Because of the speculation, the Council for American-Islamic Relations partnered with the Islamic Society of the East Bay to hold a news conference at the Fremont mosque to address the situation.
"We call on the police to investigate this issue thoroughly and on a timely basis, and to determine whether this was a hate crime or not, especially in light of the actual circumstance of the crime, and in the light of the current political climate," said CAIR's civil rights coordinator, Abdul Rahman Hamamsy, in a statement.
Safaa Ibrahim, president of CAIR's San Francisco/Bay Area chapter, expressed concern about what the slaying means for the safety of the community as a whole.
"This was a simple woman, and we absolutely hope this is not (a hate crime)," Ibrahim said.
"We hope that justice is brought to ensure peace and security not just for the Muslim community, but for many others that live here and also come from a diverse ethnic background," Ibrahim said.
Rona Murtaza Popal, president of the Afghan Women's Association in Fremont, said she is waiting to find out the motive before drawing any conclusions. Any statement, she said, would be speculation.
"If it's a hate crime, then it's going to affect the whole community," Popal said.
"Right now we're fighting against terrorism and against the killing of innocent people. It's terrible."
She added that after suffering through decades of war, many Afghans have experienced threats of violence in Afghanistan — and they hope violence has not followed them here.
Ansari immigrated with her parents and seven siblings in the late 1980s, during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. She had lived in the Glenmoor Drive apartment for about five years.
Amal Dastagirzada, a distant relative of Ansari, said word of the slaying spread like wildfire throughout Fremont's estimated 9,000- to 12,000-strong Afghan population.
"I came to show support for the community, and for a lady that was so loved and cared for," Dastagirzada said.
"I'm a grown man, but I'm scared. Many Afghans already went through so much with the Soviet occupation. They came here to be safe. Now, how can any of us feel safe?"
A trust fund has been established to help support Ansari's husband of 17 years, Ahmad, and her six children. Deposits can be made into account
No. 55041477 at any Fremont Bank location.
Ansari's memorial service arrangements are pending.