Shame and Injustice in San Diego and America

by on April 2, 2012 · 21 comments

in Civil Rights, Culture, Popular, San Diego

The killings of Trayvon Martin and Shaima Alawadi tell us something about our society.  And what they are saying is not good.

The entire nation is currently up in arms about the killing of Trayvon Martin, the 17 year old Floridian who was shot and killed over a month ago by a neighborhood watch vigilante.  And rightfully so.  Martin’s only crime was to enter a gated, middle-class community where his father lived while black, wearing a hoodie, and carrying a pack of Skittles and an iced tea.  Apparently in Florida this is what passes for justification for killing someone in self-defense:  He looked like he didn’t belong, he was different, and he scared me, so I shot him.

It’s a recurring theme that we’ve seen all too often, and the police in Sanford, Florida, don’t seem to care about the injustice of it.  The killer in this case, George Zimmerman, has thus far walked scot free.  I mean, who could blame him?  There was a 17 year old black kid walking through his neighborhood.  Can’t have that now, can we?

But while the nation’s attention is trained on the Orlando suburb of Sanford, much closer to home, just to the east of San Diego in El Cajon, we have another, perhaps more sinister case of racial hatred.  Or at least that’s how it appears.  We really don’t know yet, but what we do know is quite damning.

On March 21st, Shaima Alawadi committed the egregious crime of inhabiting the home her family rented while being an Iraqi immigrant.  The 32 year old mother of 5 was brutally beaten and left for dead.  She was found by her 17 year old daughter.  Alawadi was taken to the hospital in critical condition where she died three days later of her wounds.

Nearby her battered body was found a not that read, “Go back to your country, you terrorist!”  According to the family, it wasn’t the first time such a note had been found at their home.  Because just like in the Trayvon Martin killing where all black kids are thugs and criminals, all Iraqis/Arabs/anyone of Middle Eastern descent is a terrorist, and they should all be treated with extreme suspicion.  Such, apparently, is the country we now live in, particularly in post 9/11 America.

Shaima Alawadi came to America as a child fleeing Saddam Hussein’s brutal regime.  She came of age here.  She was educated here.  She married here, and she raised a family here.  By all accounts she was a kind, compassionate woman; an upstanding citizen and a fine mother.  Her only crime was being a Muslim woman in a locale with the second largest Iraqi community in the U.S., second only to Detroit.

Of course we don’t yet know with absolute certainty that the attack on Shaima Alawadi was a hate crime, but for the time being authorities are treating it that way.  Hell, it’s hard to fathom that this was not an attack spurred by racial hatred given the notes that were left behind.  It’s entirely possible that the note left near Shaima’s fatally battered figure was merely a red herring to throw authorities off of the real motive behind the attack.  Possible, but doubtful.  Police have a handful of leads, but as of yet have come up with nothing concrete.

With the current social and political environment that we live in—especially post 9/11—it’s pretty easy to jump to conclusions, something that we generally try to avoid, but usually fail miserably at.  In the case of Trayvon Martin though, given the evidence of what happened that night—the 911 tapes, the statements of Martin’s girlfriend with whom he was on the phone at the time, statements from witnesses, Martin’s cries for help as heard on several 911 recordings, the surveillance video from the Sanford Police Department that showed no visible signs of injury or of a scuffle and that completely contradict Zimmerman’s claims–it’s difficult to imagine his killer was motivated by anything other than racial stereotypes and hatred.  Given that Alawadi was attacked in her home, and that according to the family nothing was missing from the home indicating that burglary was not a motive; that according to her neighbors, friends, and family, Shaima Alawadi was a quiet, unassuming woman who simply went about her business and had no known enemies that wanted to do her harm; that other than the menacing notes from a month prior and left at the scene there doesn’t appear to be any other motive for the attack, it’s difficult to imagine another motivation other than a fear or hatred of Muslims.

The death of Shaima Alawadi is no less outrageous than that of Trayvon Martin.  The fact that we know who Trayvon’s killer is and that he’s still walking the streets of Sanford a free man has caused his death to overshadow Shaima’s.  The difference is that the attack on Alawadi appears to have been premeditated and deliberate while George Zimmerman’s actions were borne more of opportunity.

The fact that George Zimmerman is still a free man is a grave injustice.  He should be in jail, charged with a crime and awaiting trial.  But if the facts as we know them hold up (and they might not, we just don’t know yet until the police complete their investigation) the death of Shaima Alawadi is even an even more egregious affront to American society and the American way of life.  If, as we suspect, she was attacked merely because of her religious and cultural background, it is a dire indication of the breakdown in social mores in our country, but even worse, within the San Diego community.

One can’t help but wonder if the overheated rhetoric in our politics is at least partially to blame for either of these tragedies.  And if so, what’s it going to take to put an end to it?

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

john April 2, 2012 at 2:59 pm

Don’t you think it only complicates both quests for justice by intertwining two unrelated cases?

“Martin’s only crime was to enter a gated, middle-class community where his father lived while black, wearing a hoodie, and carrying a pack of Skittles and an iced tea. ”

Is that what Zimmerman related to the 911 dispatcher? Wasn’t there a lot more than that , which if Zimmerman had fabricated as a substitute for his alleged real reason (hatred for blacks) we would easily be able to document such a pattern of behavior in the 46 other times he called police being cases of blacks in the neighborhood facing unwarranted scrutiny. That’s not the case though, is it?

“He looked like he didn’t belong, he was different”

Neither Trayvor Martin nor his father lived in that neighborhood, did they? Should a white middle aged child molester have the right to wander around a strange neighborhood full of children without scrutiny from neighborhood watch volunteers? Why does the obvious answer to this question not apply when there have been a string of break ins and young black males dressed like Martin caught with stolen property in the area?

“and he scared me, so I shot him.”

I’m pretty sure it ‘s been widely reported since day one we have a reliable witness who placed George Zimmerman on his back with Martin on top of him repeatedly hitting him. If you’re trying to paint a scene for readers to form their opinions around, shouldn’t we be more factual about the portrayal here?

Andy, do you know any white people who would shoot and kill a black man solely because of the color of his skin? I think I’ve known one in my entire life who even talked that way, but knew him well enough to know it was all talk and if pressed to put up or shut up and do the crime, he never would have.

Do you believe that promoting such hatred is really so common or convicting Zimmerman of it in the court of public opinion helps race relations in America? Maybe when all the facts come in on this it will be revealed I’m wrong and Zimmerman really did hunt down and kill a young black man out of sheer hatred, such a concept is so much simpler to grasp than the more complex equation of minority children confused by messages of gangsta hip hop, growing up bounced back and forth between two single parents who ignore their escalating offenses, and people in crime plagued areas volunteering to take back their neighborhoods having to both protect and persecute strangers.


Anna Daniels April 2, 2012 at 5:36 pm

John, let’s talk “promoting hatred.” Attached are screenshots from Yes, let’s talk promoting hatred by blacks and liberal sympathizers. I’ve frankly heard enough from you. Hint: They’ll adore you at Fox.


Bud Pillsbury April 2, 2012 at 4:07 pm

You may want to read the police report and try again…

Six witnesses.


john April 2, 2012 at 4:32 pm

Which one of those witnesses provided an account countering that of the witness who saw Zimmerman being beaten by Martin, as detailed here:

If you have a legitimate media piece which expands upon your talking point and tells us what the witnesses stated that night, please do furnish it. It is my understanding only “John” and possibly the 13 year old saw the actual fight.


Betty April 2, 2012 at 4:47 pm

Oh, dear. I hate to be the one to tell you this, John, but Fox doesn’t qualify as a “legitimate media piece.” And if that was the fodder for your above diatribe, well, it doesn’t really warrant a response.


Andy Cohen April 2, 2012 at 5:57 pm

The police report that you linked tells us exactly nothing. No witness statements. And only one officer reports Zimmerman’s jacket being wet on the back with grass all over it (the back), and bleeding from the back of the head and nose. Still, no blood on the jacket or shirt, which if there was such a dire life-or-death struggle, there would be blood all over the place. And if the police had actually done their job, they would have taken his jacket and shirt into evidence, but they did not.

All we know from that police report is that Zimmerman called 911, the police found Zimmerman standing near Trayvon’s lifeless body with his then holstered weapon, that Trayvon was lying face down on the ground and non-responsive and later declared dead by the paramedics at 1930 hours (7:30 pm), and that Zimmerman told one of the officers that he was the shooter, and Zimmerman was subsequently taken into custody. That’s it. That’s all the above linked report tells us.


Charlie April 2, 2012 at 7:30 pm

Your last paragraph says it all. The police report is at this time all the evidence there is one way or another. Yet you are ready to convict and execute the guy. Neither you nor I know GZ or any motives that he may or may not have had. How about we wait and see if any facts come out to contradict his story before we lynch him? Lets not take media innuendo for fact. Flaming up racial hatred does no one a service as it only causes fools and idiots to make wild statements and others to believe them.

As for Police incompetence (or are you suggesting racial bigotry?), that should also become apparent in time. BTW what race were the cops on the scene? I have seen several pictures of the Police there and it would seem that it is not a lily white department. Were any black officers there? Don’t know do you?

The point is, before you make up your mind about this or any other instance it is best to wait for all the facts to be reviewed. That is the way it is supposed to happen and we all are better off if we follow the suggested procedure. You should all ask yourselves how you would feel if the races were reversed. What if GZ were Black and TM were Hispanic and the media did such an obvious hatchet job on the Black guy? What if then our Hispanic President said if he had a son he would look just like that? What if the Hispanic Caucus in Congress further inflamed the public with similar statements as the Black Caucus has? What if LULAC (this org name is being used only to make a point, no inference meant) offered a reward for his arrest? What if a bunch of Hispanic race baiters were trying to incite mobs to do violence to that man and don’t tell me that is not what is happening now? Would you be so quick to think him guilty or so sure that he must have had racial motives. A Hate Crime? I don’t think so! I think you would be saying the same thing I said above, at least I would hope so.


Anna Daniels April 2, 2012 at 7:38 pm

Charlie- we want Zimmerman to be arrested. He is innocent until judged guilty, but he should be arrested for cause. The clock is ticking. Florida has a limitation on making a formal charge. If that arrest doesn’t occur, then we will continue to adjudicate the case in the public sphere. It’s that easy.
Please read Ernie McCray’s post here about imaging a different scenario along the lines you raised.


Charlie April 2, 2012 at 11:35 pm

What if 10,000 of my friends and I insisted that you be arrested as an accomplice and the Police refused because they couldn’t find probable cause. So now we threaten to riot unless they do. Now they arrest you and financially destroy you and your family with no hope of ever being able to recover your losses both financial and personal credibility. Every person of color now thinks that you must be guilty of something, after all you were arrested. Do you get the point?

If there is truly cause for arrest, he will be arrested. The problem is, it is likely he will be arrested now not on evidence but on political expediency. I got a problem with that.


Frank Gormlie April 3, 2012 at 7:58 am

Speaking as a lawyer, most states do not have time limits – statutes of limitations – on murder.


Andy Cohen April 2, 2012 at 8:04 pm

Re-read my above post: It was specifically regarding the linked police report and what it contained. That police report is most definitely NOT the only evidence we have one way or the other, and it contains merely the word of the officers who took the report. And the Sanford Police Department doesn’t exactly have a history of credibility. This isn’t the first time they’ve come under fire for a cover up of this sort.

In addition to the police report, we have the 911 tapes. We have the eyewitness testimony of several people, including a 13 year old who saw the whole thing; the lead detective in the case who wanted to make the arrest based on the evidence that he had but was shot down by the DA; the statements of Trayvon’s girlfriend who was on the phone with him while he was being pursued and who was given a running commentary by Trayvon himself; and so much more. Everything points to this being an unjustified shooting, and if anyone had cause to shoot someone it was Trayvon. He was the one being chased and threatened. Period.

Zimmerman needs to be taken into custody to stand trial. But at this point, despite the mountain of evidence that points to criminal charges, they have refused to do anything at all. As Ernie wrote: What would have happened if the shooter was black and the victim white?


Charlie April 2, 2012 at 11:12 pm

Man oh man I would like to have your connections. You seem to be privy to statements by various people and personal knowledge on their credibility. oowee. The 911 tapes prove nothing, he was not told to not follow TM.

In fact, some like to make a big deal out of the fact that he called the police 46(?) times to report his observations. Tell me, was every call concerning black people? Did he shoot all 46 of these people? Use you head, if he was this wild eyed racial bigot that is being projected how did the 46 get away???

If there is no legally acceptable evidence that he committed a crime then he should not be arrested. If there is then he will be. The Sanford Police / District Attorney are not going to turn a blind eye to this especially with all the state and federal authorities watching. You can’t truly believe that they would. You all keep suggesting that the good ole boy network is trying to bury this. I am white and from the south originally and I can assure that that group does not protect Hispanics (trust me that group would NEVER consider this man white) and never has. When I was a child my brother in-law (Hispanic) was not allowed to swim in the public pool (early 60s). And what if he is in fact innocent? You would destroy his and his families lives just to appease your need for vengeance? Shame on you!


Christopher Moore April 2, 2012 at 7:28 pm

Zimmerman may not be a “racist” in the KKK sense, but it’s kinda funny how people get so wound up when a young black male is involved., as opposed to someone else.
It’s unfair to assume that any given demographic is all criminals or “thugs.”
I invite people to imagine how they would see this case if the complexions were changed.

Nobody is perfect, but nobody needed to die here either.
This could have easily ended with apologies and handshakes but we let the social environment take us too far…


Andy Cohen April 2, 2012 at 8:28 pm

The feds are opening their own investigation into Trayvon Martin’s killing:

FBI questions people in Trayvon Martin case, begins ‘parallel investigation’

Still nothing new on Shaima Alawadi’s murder. Hopefully they’ll find something there soon.


333maxwell April 2, 2012 at 10:56 pm

For anyone that is interested….
I am an audio guy..

I took the 911 call with the most audio informatiion regarding screams, compressed it, ran it at half speed and pitch corected it 100 percent.. even though it runs slower (just a tenth over half speed) anyone with an ear for music can tell not a note has been changed.. Digital affords you this luxury. In the analog days we had to physically slow the tape/medium down and you lose pitch and clarity.

Anyway, what I find most interesting is the ghastly scream at about 1:12 right after the final shot.\
THIS AUDIO IS NOT ENHANCED per sey.. not like enhancing a photo.. the only enhancing has been to adust volume levels so you don’t hurt your ear listening to everything at relative volume levels.

There are a few swirling artifacts in this copy because I had to compres the wav file to a 128 kbps mp3 to fit on my page so you had a player to hear it on.. These artifacts are slight and will not distract.

The 911 call as you have never heard it before, draw your own conclusions. Listen for the scream after the shot.

Again, draw your own conclusions, I am not here to change any minds tonight. This exercise is just a way to access the call and hear things you would not of just listening to the raw recording.


Bearded OBcean April 3, 2012 at 9:39 am

Perhaps what’s worrisome about this case is the attempt to make it a white-black issue. A number of media outlets have referred to Zimmerman as white-hispanic, in a fairly blatant attempt to drum up racial angst. I don’t recall the same NYT pages referring to our President as the first white-black President, do you?

Beside that, it’s pretty obvious that this is a tragedy, however, the facts are still unknown at this point. If the guy is guilty, let the process figure it out.

What’s more tragic, to me, is that a mother of five was brutally murdered right down the road. One must wonder why anyone, racist, nativist, etc would target a young woman of 5 children. That doesn’t seem to generally be the MO of such punks.

However, neither crime really says anything about our society in particular.

One wonders what hyperbole would have spilled forth had Zimmerman been a white republican instead of a hispanic democrat. If anything can be gleaned from this, it would be that the right would be tarred and feathered and accused of inciting hatred, racism and violence, much like the incorrect, knee jerk reaction after Gabby Giffords was shot.


Frank Gormlie April 3, 2012 at 9:45 am

Bearded: you conclude by saying that the right was tarred and feathered after “the incorrect, knee jerk reaction after Gabby Giffords was shot”. Hmm, who has been inciting violence, pray tell? What extremist right-wing demagogues spout hatred from their microphones? The bastard who shot and killed all those people was unstable probably, yes. But he was also probably egged on by these often racist, violent rants by reactionary Republican mouths on the airways.


Prattle On, Boyo April 3, 2012 at 10:01 am

Sadly, what Zimmerman and the rest of the nation have not realized is that the boogiemen in our respective neighborhoods don’t wear hoodies. They fly corporate jets.


Nunya April 3, 2012 at 6:15 pm

Boy, everybody’s jumping on this bandwagaon. Here’s what I know:

God, the perpetrators and the victims know exactly what happened in these cases.


Doug Porter April 4, 2012 at 4:49 pm

eh, i’ve keptm y mouth shut about the el cajon killing… something didn’t feel right. and the fact that the iraqi community wanted to ‘wait’ for more data…now the cops are saying ‘wait a minute’, something else is going on here. (NBC News story)


Frank Gormlie April 4, 2012 at 6:49 pm

There’s absolutely nothing new in this report that hasn’t been out there already.


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