CHICAGO— An Illinois landlord accused of fatally stabbing a 6-year-old Muslim boy and seriously injuring his mother has been charged with a hate crime after police and relatives said he targeted the victims because of their faith and in response to the war between Israel and Israel selected Hamas.
In recent days, police in U.S. cities and federal agencies have been on high alert for violence sparked by anti-Semitic or Islamophobic sentiment. FBI officials and Jewish and Muslim groups have reported an increase in hateful and threatening rhetoric.
In the Chicago case, officers found the 32-year-old woman and 32-year-old boy late Saturday morning at a home in an unincorporated area of Plainfield Township, about 40 miles (65 kilometers) southwest of Chicago, the Will Sheriff’s Office said County with a statement on social media.
Relatives and a Muslim civil liberties advocacy group identified the killed boy as the wounded woman’s son.
The boy was pronounced dead at a hospital. The woman suffered multiple stab wounds and is expected to survive, according to the statement. An autopsy of the child revealed that he had been stabbed dozens of times.
“Investigators were able to determine that both victims of this brutal attack were targeted by the suspect due to their being Muslims and the ongoing Middle East conflict between Hamas and the Israelis,” the sheriff’s statement said.
According to the Will County Sheriff’s Office, the woman called 911 and reported that her landlord had attacked her with a knife. She then ran into a bathroom and continued to resist him.
The man suspected in the attack was found outside the home Saturday “sitting upright on the ground outside near the residence’s driveway” with a cut on his forehead, authorities said.
Joseph M. Czuba, 71, of Plainfield was charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, two counts of hate crime and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, according to the sheriff’s office. WLS-TV reported that an initial hearing for Czuba was scheduled for Monday afternoon in District Court in Joliet, according to the Will County Prosecutor’s Office.
Attempts to reach Czuba or a family member were unsuccessful Sunday. His home phone number was not listed. Messages left in online records and on social media for possible relatives were not immediately returned. The sheriff’s office and the county public defender’s office did not immediately respond to messages about Czuba’s legal representation.
Authorities did not release the names of the two victims.
But the boy’s paternal uncle, Yousef Hannon, spoke Sunday at a news conference of the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which was also attended by the boy’s father. There the boy was identified as Wadea Al-Fayoume, a Palestinian-American boy who had recently turned six. The organization identified the other victim as the boy’s mother.
“We are not animals, we are people. We want people to see us as human beings, feel us as human beings, treat us as human beings, because that’s who we are,” said Hannon, a Palestinian American who immigrated to the United States in 1999 USA to work, including as a teacher at a public school.
The Muslim civil liberties organization called the crime “our worst nightmare” and part of a disturbing rise in hate calls and emails since the war between Israel and Hamas began. The group cited text messages exchanged between family members that showed the attacker had made derogatory comments about Muslims.
“Palestinians are essentially heartbroken once again about what is happening to their people,” said Ahmed Rehab, the group’s executive director, “but must also be concerned about the immediate safety of life and limb if they are here in this most free Living the democracy of the world.” World.”
In response to the increasing threats, Illinois State Police are communicating with federal law enforcement and reaching out to Muslim communities and religious leaders to offer support, according to a news release from Democratic Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker on Sunday.
“Taking the life of a six-year-old child in the name of bigotry is nothing short of evil,” Pritzker said. “Wadea should go to school in the morning. Instead, his parents will wake up without their son. This wasn’t just a murder – it was a hate crime. And every single Illinoisan – including our Muslim, Jewish and Palestinian neighbors – deserves to live free from the threat of such evil.”
President Joe Biden echoed that sentiment on Sunday, saying in a statement: “This terrible act of hate has no place in America and is antithetical to our core values: freedom from fear, how we pray, what we believe and who we are.” “
The Justice Department has opened a hate crime investigation into the events leading up to the attack, Attorney General Merrick Garland said.
FBI Director Chris Wray said in a phone call with reporters Sunday that the FBI is also moving quickly to mitigate the threats.
A senior FBI official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in keeping with ground rules set by the FBI, said most of the threats the FBI responded to were not deemed credible, adding that the FBI still handled them all take seriously.
The official also said that in the last week, agents had been encouraged to be “aggressive” and proactive in communicating with religious leaders. The official said the purpose was not to make anyone feel like they were being targeted, but rather to urge clergy and others to report anything that appears suspicious to law enforcement.