16-Year-Old Nabra Hassanen Kidnapped And Slain In Virginia, Police Refuse To Label Killing As Hate Crime

A 16-year-old Muslim girl, identified as Nabra Hassanen, was abducted and killed in a senseless attack. The crime took place in Sterling, Virginia, shortly after 3:30 a.m. on Sunday, June 18. She and a group of friends were heading to the All Dulles Area Muslim Society Center (ADAMS) after enjoying a short break from Ramadan prayer. They had gone out to eat and were returning to the center after having breakfast at a local restaurant in anticipation of beginning their fast at daybreak.

Reports are conflicted as to where the group of girls ate their meal. According to the Washington Post, it was a local IHOP, and Buzzfeed reports that it was a McDonald’s. Regardless of where the group ate, the details of the attack are clear.

On their way back, they were attacked a man with a baseball bat. He emerged from a car, which pulled up next to the group of girls, and began hitting and striking the group. The group fled and later reassembled at the center, only to realize that Nabra was not with them. They called the police department for help after they could not find their friend.

Later that day, police officers located the body of a female believed to be that of Nabra in Sterling. They have yet to positively identify the body, however.

According to an interview with Buzzfeed, the Fairfax Police Department said that they are reasonably certain that the female body they found is that of Nabra, but an autopsy must be conducted to confirm her identity.

An Arrest Made

The police arrested a 22-year-old man shortly after the remains were found. Darwin Martinez Torres was officially charged with murder in connection with the case. Police found him driving suspiciously in the area around where the remains were located. He was positively identified by the others in Nabra’s group as being at the place where they had breakfast.

According to family friend Yufra Abdelmuid, Torres was eating there and then followed them in his car as they left. He threw a beer bottle at the group, and after they started running away, he got out of his car and began swinging at them with a baseball bat.

Torres had a short arraignment on Monday morning in Fairfax County juvenile court. Even though Torres is 22, because Nabra was a minor, the hearing must take place in that jurisdiction. Torres spoke through a translator in response to the judge’s questions during the proceedings. He was appointed a public defender and remanded back into custody without bond.

His next court appearance is set for July 19.

Remembering Nabra

Family and friends are mourning the bright and funny girl they remember. Nabra, a student at South Lakes High School, had planned a huge iftar dinner for her friends from her school and ADAMS on Saturday night. Her mother, Sawsan Gazzar, remembers how packed the dinner was; she says that her daughter was sociable and popular.

After the iftar, Nabra went to ADAMS with her friends for midnight prayers that occur during the last 10 days of Ramadan. While Nabra wasn’t especially religious, she liked going to ADAMS during Ramadan, because of all the people and teens who gathered there.

16-year-old Nabra Hassanen was beaten to death
Nabra Hassanen's murder took place during the holy month of Ramadan. [Image by Win McNamee/Getty Images]

Gazzar loaned her daughter a traditional Muslim gown called an abaya for her to wear at the mosque. She recalled how a detective told her that Nabra tripped over the abaya when she tried to flee from Torres. She fell and was then struck with the metal bat the assailant was wielding.

Nabra was described by a neighbor as respectful and sweet, always addressing older neighbors with honorifics. She was also described as a “daddy’s girl” who was close to her father, who worked as a driver for a bus and limousine company. Nabra’s father was at the mosque, mourning on Father’s Day, a day that should have been special.

In a move that many have called outrageous, however, the police posted a message on Twitter saying that they were not investigating Nabra’s murder as a hate crime.

Nabra’s mother disagrees with this assessment, saying, “I’m sure the guy hit my daughter because she’s Muslim and she was wearing the hijab. The thing in my head is, why did he do that to us? We’re not bad people. He doesn’t know us. Why did he ever do that? I don’t feel safe at all anymore, as a Muslim living here now. I’m so worried about sending my kids out and their coming back as bodies.”

“I want justice. I want to know why he did this to her. Why would you kill a kid? What did my daughter do to deserve this?”

[Featured Image by Tsalvit/Shutterstock]