One of four Muslim men slain in potentially linked Albuquerque killings remembered as ‘brilliant public servant’
Police believe the death of Muhammad Afzaal Hussain on August 1 could be linked to the killings of three other Muslim men. The most recent killing, which Albuquerque police were alerted to Friday night, came a day after authorities determined there was a connection between the killings of Hussain and 41-year-old Aftab Hussein, who, like Hussain was from Pakistan.
Detectives are working to determine whether the November killing of Mohammad Ahmadi, a Muslim man from Afghanistan killed outside a business he ran with his brother, was also related.
At the time he was killed, Hussain worked on the planning team for the city of Española, New Mexico, according to a news release from the mayor, who said he was “deeply saddened” to learn of the man’s death.
“Muhammad was soft-spoken and kind, and quick to laugh,” Mayor John Ramon Vigil said in a news release last Wednesday. “He was well-respected and well-liked by his coworkers and members of the community.”
Hussain, who had worked for the office for a year, studied law and human resource management at the University of Punjab in Pakistan, the mayor’s release said, before receiving both master’s and bachelor degrees in community and regional planning from the University of New Mexico.
“Our City staff has lost a member of our family,” the mayor’s statement said, “and we all have lost a brilliant public servant who wanted to serve and improve his community.”
The University of New Mexico community is similarly “heartbroken” over Hussain’s death, President Garnett S. Stokes said in a statement, calling Hussain “an inspiring leader and a really special Lobo who touched so many lives.”
“It was my privilege to know and work with him,” Stokes said.
Jesse Alemán, the acting dean of graduate studies at the university, called Hussain a “brilliant, respected student leader” who “continued to extend his compassionate leadership skills and educational expertise at the local and state levels” after he graduated.
Victims were ‘ambushed with no warning,’ police say
The attacks have drawn condemnation from political leaders, including President Joe Biden, who said he was “angered and saddened” by the attacks.
“While we await a full investigation, my prayers are with the victims’ families, and my administration stands strongly with the Muslim community,” Biden wrote on Twitter.
Vice President Kamala Harris and New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham similarly expressed support for New Mexico’s Muslim community, with the latter describing the attacks as “deeply angering and wholly intolerable.”
“We will continue to do everything we can to support … the Muslim community of Albuquerque and greater New Mexico during this difficult time,” the governor said on Twitter. “You are New Mexicans, you are welcomed here, and we stand with you.”The FBI is assisting with the investigation, according to a news release from the Albuquerque Police Department, which has created an online portal where residents can upload videos and images that may help authorities investigating the recent killings. The local Crime Stoppers Board has voted to increase a reward for information that helps lead to an arrest from $15,000 to $20,000. “These shootings are disturbing,” Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina said in a news conference Saturday, soon after the fourth victim was discovered.
Albuquerque police officers responded just before midnight Friday to reports of a shooting in the area of Truman Street and Grand Avenue, and found the victim dead, according to the police department’s news release. The victim, a Muslim man believed to be in his mid-20s, was from South Asia, police said. His identity has not been positively confirmed, the release added.
Hussain, Hussein and Ahmadi, were all “ambushed with no warning, fired on and killed,” Kyle Hartsock, deputy commander of the police department’s Criminal Investigations Division, previously said.
“Our top priority is keeping the community safe and we are asking the Muslim community especially to be vigilant to watch out for one another. If you see something, say something,” the police chief said Saturday. “Evil will not prevail.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations is also offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction of those responsible, the organization announced, calling the series of killings a “horrific, hateful shooting spree.”
“We thank local, state and federal law enforcement for their ongoing work on this crisis, and we call the Biden administration to ensure that authorities all of the resources needed to both protect the Albuquerque Muslim community and stop those responsible for these horrific crimes before they claim more innocent lives,” CAIR National Deputy Director Edward Ahmed Mitchell said in a statement.
CNN’s Raja Razek and Christina Maxouris contributed to this report.