In a City that boasts of diversity and considered home to the most number of immigrant groups from around the world, a Muslim woman was shot dead here on August 31st. Nazma Khanam, a 60-year-old woman, a retired school teacher from Bangladesh, was killed near her home in Jamaica, Queens as she walked back from a neighborhood grocery, where she and her husband worked, in the evening along with her husband.
Within three days of the killing of Nazma Khanam, aunt of a New York transit policeman, on Normal Road in Jamaica, police arrested Yonatan Galvez Marin, 22, of the same neighborhood. Marin was charged by the Queens District Attorney with two counts of second-degree murder, first-degree attempted robbery and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon. If convicted, the defendant faces up to 25 years to life in prison. He was expected to be arraigned this week.
Surveillance video showed Khanam walking with a bag of groceries. Her husband, who was walking with her, but somewhat slowed down reportedly due to asthma, heard screams and ran to the scene to find her on the sidewalk.
District Attorney Richard Brown said that her husband, 75-year-old Shamul Alam Khan, was a few steps behind her wife when the assailant, now identified as Marin approached her and demanded money. When Khanam refused, he stabbed her in her torso and fled. She died in a local Queens hospital where she was pronounced as brought dead.
The traditional Muslim attire that Khanam wore at the time of her murder prompted initial calls by members of the community for a treating the murder as a hate crime. The NYPD’s fate crime task force assisted in the investigation. But even after he was charged with murder, many continued to believe that the woman was killed because of hate crime, and not robbery as nothing had been taken from her.
The Daily News quoted her transit cop nephew Humayun Kabir, 35, who immediately reached the crime scene, was quoted as saying that when he broke the news to his uncle he started screaming and crying. ‘My wife just came to this country to just get killed! We had a better life in Bangladesh!,” he was quoted by the report as having been told by his uncle. “The family doesn’t deserve to be going through this,” added Kabir, who has been on the force since 2005.
At the Jamaica Mosque Sept. 2, where hundreds of people gathered to mourn her death, including dozens of NYPD officers, and at the press conference after the prayer, Shamul Alam Khan broke down sobbing. ““What can I do? I have three kids now. I cannot take care of the kids without her,” he said. He was present along his children and nephew Kabir.
A high-ranking police official told Daily News that NYPD’s best guess is it was a psycho who ran at her. “This was not a robbery and though we do not know all the facts, the reality is this is happening too often,” public advocate Letitia James said to cheers from the crowd at the mosque Sept. 2. before Marin’s arrest.
Assemblyman David Weprin issued a statement before Marin’s arrest saying he is aggrieved by the death of Khanam. “Our community is one that stands together against each and every possible bias incident, and together we mourn the passing of one of our neighbors. I send my condolences to the family of Nazma Khanam and urge the New York Police Department to investigate this attack as a possible hate crime against the Muslim-American community.”