Image via LaunchGood.
Image via LaunchGood.

In an announcement Monday, Fairfax County Police stated that the death of Nabra Hassanen—the teen who was violently beaten by a driver as she and her friends were walking early Sunday morning—will be investigated as a road rage incident and not a hate crime.

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Darwin Martinez Torres, 22, has been charged with the crime and is currently in police custody. According to the friends who were with Hassanen at the time of the assault, Torres encountered the teens in his car as they were walking home from a Sterling, VA IHOP where they had stopped to eat after celebrating Ramadan at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS).

Hassanen’s friends say that Torres began throwing beer bottles at them, forcing them to run back to ADAMS. The victim’s mother tells the Washington Post that her daughter, who typically wears Western garb, was wearing a borrowed abaya, a traditional Muslim dress, which she tripped over because she wasn’t used to running in it. Upon their arrival at the mosque, the rest of her group reported that Hassanen had fallen behind.

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Monday morning, the Fairfax County Police department tweeted that Torres, who is accused of beating Hassanen to death with a metal baseball bat, was motivated by road rage, not any racism or prejudice against Muslims.

Hassanen’s mother, Sawsan Gazzar, believes differently, telling the Post:

“I’m sure the guy hit my daughter because she’s Muslim and she was wearing the hijab. The thing in my head is, why did he do that to us? We’re not bad people. He doesn’t know us. Why did he ever do that? I don’t feel safe at all anymore, as a Muslim living here now. I’m so worried about sending my kids out and their coming back as bodies...I want justice. I want to know why he did this to her…Why would you kill a kid? What did my daughter do to deserve this?”

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Torres, who has a four-year-old son, is currently being held in the county jail without bond. His next court date is scheduled for July 19.

Jezebel will update should the Fairfax County Police Department make further statements.

Managing Editor, Jezebel

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DISCUSSION

This doesn’t make sense to me. How was it road rage? He decided to throw beer bottles at them, and then beat Ms. Hassanen to death? Where did road rage come in: it wasn’t as though they were in another car.

It may not have been a premeditated hate crime but the police may be a little quick to rule out the effect of the abayas. Muslim women are an easy target in this country; there is such a visceral response to head-covering (much less abaya) in this country. We are all complicit until we begin to show more respect to the Muslim community as a whole.

I’m looking at you, too, mass media.