Cops: Road rage apparent motive in Muslim teen's killing


FAIRFAX, Va. — A 22-year-old Virginia man was held on a murder charge Monday in the slaying of a teenage Muslim girl who was attacked during a breakfast break from an all-night prayer session at her mosque.

Darwin Martinez Torres of Sterling was arraigned in Fairfax County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court and ordered held without bail pending a July 19 court appearance.

Police later identified the victim as 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen of Reston.

Fairfax County Police spokesperson Julie Parker said Monday that an autopsy of Hassanen’s body revealed that she suffered blunt force trauma to the upper body after a road rage incident.

“There is nothing at this point to indicate that this tragic case was a hate crime,” Parker said in a press conference.

A group of nearly 15 teenagers were walking and riding bikes on Dranesville Road at about 3:40 a.m. Sunday, Parker said. The teens had left the mosque to get food, and while they walked back, some teens were on the sidewalk and some in the roadway.

Detectives believe that Torres drove up to the group and began arguing with a male teen who was riding his bike. Torres then drove his car up onto a curb and the group scattered, Parker said.

Torres caught up with the group, got out of his car, hit Hassanen with a baseball bat and then took her to a second location, Parker said. 

According to WRC-TV in Washington, the girls ran away and didn’t realize until later that Hassanen wasn’t with them.

Torres was arrested at 5:15 a.m. Sunday by a Fairfax County Police Department police officer who noticed what he believed to be the involved car, police said in a statement.

WRC-TV reported that Torres was questioned near the scene of the attack, and led officers several miles away to a retention pond across the street from his apartment complex where a female body, believed to be Hassanen, was found at about 3 p.m. Sunday.

“What investigators told the father and the mother, he hit her in the head and put her in the car and he threw her in the water,” said family friend and spokesperson Abas Sherif.

“This tragic case appears to be the result of a road rage incident involving the suspect, who was driving and who is now charged with murder, and a group of teenagers who was walking and riding bikes in and along a roadway,” Fairfax police said in a statement Monday. “Our investigation at this point in no way indicates the victim was targeted because of her race or religion.”

Hassanen was a sophomore at South Lakes High School in Reston, Virginia, and would have been starting her junior year this fall, friends told WUSA.

ADAMS is one of the largest mosques in the country, and is particularly busy during Ramadan. Observant Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan, and since Ramadan this year overlaps with the summer solstice, and sunrise occurs well before 6 a.m., some Muslims will eat large meals in predawn hours.

“We are devastated and heartbroken as our community undergoes and processes this traumatic event,” the society said in the news release. “It is a time for us to come together to pray and care for our youth.” It said the society was enlisting licensed counselors to assist anyone in need.

A statement by Madihha Ahussain, special counsel for anti-Muslim bigotry at Muslim Advocates, a national legal and educational organization for American Muslims, said the tragedy occurring on Father’s Day and during the holy month of Ramadan, “strikes the heart of the strong community of the ADAMS Center and of Fairfax.”

“We urge both local and federal authorities to conduct a thorough and unbiased investigation into all possible motives for this gruesome crime,” Ahussain said.

The girl’s mother Sawsan Gazzar was among those who gathered Sunday to pray for the girl, according to The Washington Post.

“Pray for me that I can handle this… I lost my daughter, my first reason for happiness,” Gazzar said.



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