Jersey City Hate Crime?

Jan. 18, 2005 10:20 am
New York City

Monday was cold and miserable, with blistering winds and an awful event to cover in Jersey City, New Jersey. A family of four was brutally murdered in their home — bound, gagged, and stabbed to death, with multiple wounds in the head and neck, according to police. The youngest victim was eight. I have a daughter that age. Monday was their funeral.

The mourners walked slowly past us in the morning processional to the church, some wailing, others softly singing. Two women, both related to Amal Garas, were inconsolable. They cried and screamed and slapped themselves. One man bear-hugged the woman crying hardest, and wrestled her from the procession, trying to calm her down. I had to jump out of the way. His efforts didn't help, and she fought her way back to the caskets while hitting herself so hard repeatedly in the face, it hurt me.

Later, after the funeral, as mourners poured out onto Bergen Street, fights broke out all around me. Some people threw punches. There was a lot of pointing and shouting and pushing. I tried to stay on the edge of the action and close to Hollywood, my cameraman, but we got separated.

It was chaotic and crazy. Jersey City cops actually had to circle and protect a Muslim cleric at the center of the storm. Some people were upset by the cleric's attempt to attend, since Muslim extremists were suspected of the murders. The man, bearded with a robe, was herded into a nearby parking garage, and cops rolled down the metal door to keep out the angry crowd. I watched one guy try to run over a car to get to the middle of the scrum. He jumped on the hood and leaped up onto the roof, but there was snow and ice on the trunk lid, so when his foot hit that, he went down hard. Luckily some guy broke his fall, or he might have busted his head on the street.

The victims were Coptic Christians, a distinct minority in their homeland of Egypt, and the U.S. too, for that matter. Many of them said they came to this country to escape religious persecution. Tragically, the murdered family may have been targeted for their beliefs. The father, Hossam Armanious, was reportedly anti-Muslim and not afraid to share his strong views in the chat rooms of a Middle Eastern Web site. He apparently got in some heated debates, and made some people very angry. There was a threat, according to someone close to the family: “You better stop this bulls**t or we are going to track you down like a chicken and kill you.”

Hossam never backed down, according to the source, and local and federal authorities are investigating whether the argument led to the slayings.

Religious freedom is one of the founding principles of our great country, and obviously has to be protected. We spoke to some of Hossam's friends, whose voices rose to a fever pitch when asked to explain their reactions to the events of the past few days. “These things happen in Egypt, and Iraq, and other places in the Middle East,” one man yelled at me. “Not in the United States! Not in the United States!”

I pray their calls for justice are answered.

E-mail Rick!

[Ed. note: Click the video tab in the upper right to watch video of Leventhal's reports.]

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Just wanted to say thanks ever so much for your report. You included details not found in any of the other stories I've been reading about this.

Please keep up your FOX-worthy following of whatever happens next in this tragedy. America has to know.

- M

That man is right that this should not be happening in the United States.

— I E Smith

Dear Rick,

Thank you for reporting objectively on this horrific and tragic crime which threatens the sole reason that ALL people have immigrated to the "Land of the Free." I am an American-Egyptian Copt raised in the USA--the only country I have known and loved. I am deeply saddened to see that the violent hate crimes that we as Copts are so accustomed to experiencing in Egypt are now breaking the boundaries of my homeland. Please do not lose sight of this pivotal is extremely important to all Americans who value and exercise their first Amendment rights. I pray that justice will be done.

— Manal MD (Gainesville, FL)

This is an absolute tragedy, when people are killed in our country because of their religious beliefs it goes against everything that our country stands for. Our prayers go out to the victims and their families. Please continue to stay on top of this story it is one that needs to be heard.

— Chris

I am a Coptic Christian living in Ohio. I want to let you know that everyone in our community is deeply disturbed by this incident. This is terrorism directed towards the Coptic Christians specifically, and to all the Christians generally. It is just an example of what we have all experienced in Egypt. It is the reason we are in the United States so we can practice our religion in freedom and peace. It is obvious what the terrorists want, they want to silence us and extinguish Christianity.

I urge you to continue reporting about this subject, it is vitally important for everyone to know what the agenda of these terrorists is.

— A.B (Ohio)

Remember the woman that threw her kids into a lake and said a black man had kidnapped them. Let's wait to see what the police determine. They have a lot of experience in Jersey City with homicides.

— Elsi

I have just read your article on the Jersey killing and was impressed with your reporting. You are a big asset to the FOX News Channel and I hope they appreciate what a talented reporter you are. Keep up the good work.

— Kathy (Baker, MT)

I'm so glad SOMEONE is following this story!

— Rosalie (Wilbraham, MA)

Thanks much for your reporting of the horrible murders of the Egyptian family. I appreciate you taking the FOX “fair and balanced’ mantra to heart; not only in this story, but in all of your journalistic endeavors that I’ve been able to enjoy and learn from.

— Jack