DALLAS – An Iraqi man who fled violence in his homeland and was reunited with his wife in the United States had been in Texas just three weeks when he was fatally shot while taking photos of his first snowfall, his father-in-law said.
Ahmed Al-Jumaili had saved money for more than a year for the move by providing Internet connections to Iraqi homes, according to Mohammed Altaae. Al-Jumaili was killed by gunfire last week while playing in a rare Dallas snowfall with his wife and brother-in-law at their apartment complex.
Dallas police Maj. Jeff Cotner says investigators are searching for four men in their late teens or early 20s seen on surveillance video walking from the complex last Wednesday. It's unclear if Al-Jamaili, 36, was targeted or if the suspects haphazardly scattered shots across the parking lot of the complex. He died early Thursday morning at a hospital.
"The family was taking photos," Cotner said. "That's the first time they had seen snow. A pretty snowfall brings out the child in all of us."
Al-Jamaili and his wife, Zahraa Altaie, had been married just a month before she moved to Dallas, leaving behind strife in Iraq. She had settled with family in an area of Dallas with a concentration of immigrants, particularly from the Middle East. Al-Jamaili arrived in February and the couple was reunited, Altaae said.
"For a young man and a young woman, oh God, so many dreams together," Altaae said. "They wanted to have children and educate them well. It was the dreams of young people."
He described Al-Jumaili as a man trying to do right by his family, as someone who was quick with a smile and faster with a joke. Al-Jumaili was fond of soccer and swimming, and enjoyed any puzzle or game that expanded his knowledge.
"He had a lot of faith in his future, a lot of faith in his destiny," his father-in-law said.
Cotner says Al-Jamaili's killing doesn't appear to be a hate crime, but it's a consideration as the investigation moves forward. Two of the suspects were armed, he said, one with a rifle. The two groups apparently had no interaction — no cross words, no contention, he said. He declined to say how many shots were fired. A number of vehicles also were struck.
Alia Salem, executive director of the Dallas-Fort Worth chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said Muslims in Texas are "in fear of their lives" following Al-Jumaili's death.
"I've gotten a number of calls from people saying they don't want to leave their homes," said Salem, who cited violent incidents elsewhere, such as the shooting deaths last month of three university students in North Carolina, apparently over a parking dispute.
In Texas, hundreds of people protested earlier this year outside a Muslim conference in suburban Dallas, Salem noted, and protesters heckled and interrupted a Muslim rally at the Texas Capitol.
Abeer Hallak of Mesquite attended the rally and said she was surprised by the strident nature of the demonstration. Muslims need to express the tenets of their faith as a way of tamping down anti-Muslim fervor, she said.
"We're Americans here," Hallak said. "Our children were born here. This is our homeland."