So Sad: Palestinian-American Boy Killed and His Mother Injured After Landlord Stabs Them Because They Were Muslim, Authorities Say |

So Sad: Palestinian-American Boy Killed and His Mother Injured After Landlord Stabs Them Because They Were Muslim, Authorities Say

An Illinois landlord accused of fatally stabbing a 6-year-old Muslim boy and seriously wounding his mother was charged with a hate crime after police and relatives said he singled out the victims because of their faith and as a response to the war between Israel and Hamas.

via: CNN

Joseph M. Czuba, 71, was charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, two counts of a hate crime and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, the Will County, Illinois, Sheriff’s Office said in a news release. The US Justice Department has also opened a federal hate crime investigation into the attack, US Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Sunday.

The sheriff’s office said Czuba did not make a statement to detectives but investigators determined the victims were “targeted by the suspect due to them being Muslim and the on-going Middle Eastern conflict involving Hamas and the Israelis.”

The family is Palestinian and “came to America seeking what we all seek—a refuge to live, learn, and pray in peace,” according to the White House.

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden said they were “shocked and sickened” over the attack and offered their condolences to the family in a statement released by the White House Sunday.

Authorities were called to the residence in unincorporated Plainfield Township, roughly 40 miles southwest of Chicago, shortly before noon Saturday after a woman called 911 saying her landlord had attacked her, according to the sheriff’s office.

When deputies arrived, they found Czuba sitting on the ground, near the home’s driveway, the release said. The two victims were found in a bedroom, each with “multiple stab wounds,” and were taken to the hospital, according to the release.

The boy was stabbed 26 times and succumbed to his injuries, the sheriff’s office said.

The 32-year-old woman, who had more than a dozen stab wounds, is recovering at the hospital and is expected to survive, the office said.

The Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) identified the victims in a news release as Hanaan Shahin, and her son, Wadea Al-Fayoume.

The Bidens said the “horrific act of hate has no place in America, and stands against our fundamental values: freedom from fear for how we pray, what we believe, and who we are.”

“As Americans, we must come together and reject Islamophobia and all forms of bigotry and hatred,” the statement from the White House read. “I have said repeatedly that I will not be silent in the face of hate. We must be unequivocal. There is no place in America for hate against anyone.”

The family had lived on the house’s ground floor for two years without “previous notable issues” with Czuba, CAIR said.

But in texts to the boy’s father from the hospital after the attack, Shahin said the landlord “knocked on their door, and when she opened, he tried to choke her and proceeded to attack her with a knife, yelling, ‘you Muslims must die,’” according to the CAIR statement.

The attorney general said the Justice Department “will use every legal authority at our disposal to bring to justice those who perpetrate illegal acts of hate.”

“This incident cannot help but further raise the fears of Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian communities in our country with regard to hate-fueled violence,” Garland said. “The Department of Justice is focused on protecting the safety and the civil rights of every person in this country.”

After Wadea’s killing, the Illinois State Police urged vigilance Sunday but assured residents that, “At this time, there is no actionable intelligence regarding any credible mass threats in Illinois.”

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