A morning of prayer and reflection in the Islamic holy month of Ramadan ended in tragedy when 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen left her mosque with friends for a pre-dawn meal and was attacked with a baseball bat.
Authorities said Hassanen died of blunt force trauma to her upper body after 22-year-old Darwin Martinez Torres came out of his car swinging the bat at her group of friends early Sunday. Police said Martinez Torres appeared to be motivated by road rage, not religious hatred, after driving up to the teenagers along the road in suburban Washington.
Vigils are planned around the country Tuesday to honor Hassanen and stand in solidarity with her family, said Women’s Initiative for Self-Empowerment CEO Rana Abdelhamid. Groups in New York, Washington, Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Detroit are joining the effort. Another vigil, in Hassanen’s hometown of Reston, Virginia, is planned for Wednesday.
Police said an altercation began between Martinez Torres and a teenage boy in the group who was riding a bicycle. They said and they have found no evidence to suggest Hassanen’s killing was a hate crime.
“Nothing indicates that this was motivated by race or by religion. It appears the suspect became so enraged over this traffic argument that it escalated into deadly violence,” Fairfax County Police Spokeswoman Julie Parker said.
Many outside observers remain deeply skeptical.
Abas Sherif, a spokesman for the victim’s family, said Nabra and all the other girls in her group were wearing Muslim head coverings and loose Islamic robes when the driver approached.
“Road rage. Indeed. If you think for a minute that her appearance had nothing to do with this crime, you’re lying to yourself,” tweeted attorney Rabia Chaudry, a prominent Muslim activist who lives in the Washington suburbs.
Hassanen was with a group of as many as 15 other teens, boys and girls who had left their Sterling-area mosque between Ramadan prayers to get food at a McDonald’s, Parker said.