Mourners gather for Arab-American who may be hate crime victim

By Deborah Kong, AP Minority Issues Writer
Friday October 05, 2001

FRESNO — More than 300 people attended Thursday the funeral of a slain Arab-American shopkeeper whose relatives believe was the victim of a hate crime. 

Abdo Ali Ahmed, 51, was shot and killed Saturday at his convenience store in nearby Reedley. Family and friends believe he was killed as part of the backlash against people of Middle Eastern descent following last month’s terrorist attacks. 

The Fresno County Sheriff’s office and the FBI are investigating whether the killing was a robbery or a hate crime. 

“There’s a real appearance of that, but we don’t know what transpired in that store, we don’t know what was said,” said Sgt. Toby Rien, who heads the county investigation. 

A few days before the killing, family members said Ahmed found a written death threat on his car at a grocery store, but threw the note out. Investigators can’t find that piece of evidence, which could prove crucial to determine the motivation for the crime. 

Ahmed came to the United States from Yemen 35 years ago. About 10 years ago, he opened Ahmed’s East Reedley Store. 

“He was peaceful, he was humble, he was down to earth and he hardly had any enemies,” said Imam Laluddin Bakri during the service. 

Friends, family and other members of the Arab-American and Muslim communities were among those packed inside a local mosque during Ahmed’s funeral. 

About 60 local Arab-American businesses have closed shop so their owners can attend the funeral, said Mansoor Ismael, the honorary Yemen consul in San Francisco. 

“Its a terrible tragedy, we are against anymore innocent victims being taken,” said Marla Ruzicka who drove to the services from San Francisco. 

Gov. Gray Davis announced Thursday a new initiative to offer cash payouts for Arab or Muslim-Americans who are victims of hate crimes to cover emotional distress or lost wages in addition to related expenses. 

Damages of up to $150,000 are covered under California’s Ralph Civil Rights Act, the governor’s office said. That figure includes losses due to property damage or medical expenses.