Despite a hate-filled note found at the murder scene of an Iraqi mother in California, police today are emphasizing that other evidence found during the investigation has them convinced the killing was an isolated incident that poses no danger to other Iraqis.
Police in El Cajon, Calif., said they will still look into whether the murder of 32-year-old Shaima Alawadi could be classified a hate-crime, but Police Chief James Redman said that "based on the evidence thus far, we believe this is an isolated incident."
The beating death of the Iraqi mother of five sent shock waves through the community of El Cajon, which has one of the largest concentrations of Iraqi immigrants in America. Twitter and Facebook users created hashtags and pages in Alawadi's honor, comparing the targeting of Alawadi for wearing a hijab to that of Florida teen Trayvon Martin for wearing a hooded sweatshirt. Police, however, have not said that Alawadi was targeted for wearing a hijab.
"I want to stress there is other evidence in this case that we are looking at, and the possibility of a hate crime is just one of the aspects of this investigation," Redman said today.
Nazanin Wahid, a friend of Alawadi's family who is acting as the family spokeswoman, said today that the family is in the midst of the traditional Iraqi three-day mourning process, and is waiting to hear more about hte investigation from police.
"It's been suggested that there was a hate crime, but until the evidence is more clear, we can't jump to conclusions either," Wahid said. "It could be an isolated event. Who knows what it could be?"
The beating was first reported last Wednesday when Alawadi's daughter contacted police around 11:15 a.m. to report finding her mother in a pool of blood with head injuries, police Lt. Mark Coit told ABC News.
Alawadi's daughter told local news station KUSI that she found a note next to her mother that read, in part, "go back to your own country, you terrorists." Police would not confirm the contents of the note, though a fingerprint was reportedly found on the note, according to ABC affiliate KOGO.
Alawadi's family told police that they had received a note simliar to the one left at the murder scene a week earlier, but Alawadi had laughed it off as a prank and did not report it to police. The family did not have the note to show police, Coit said.
Alawadi was taken off life suport on Saturday and died shortly after.
According to police, Alawadi's husband had left the house earlier that day to take their younger children to school. The police have conducted interviews with all of the family members, Coit said.
The FBI is assisting El Cajon police in the investigation.
Wahid, the family spokeswoman, noted that the family has struggled to communicate because of language barriers during the investigation.
Wahid said she had known Alawadi for many years, since both of their families had emigrated to the United States and began attending the same mosque, and had watched each other get married and have children.
"She stood out to me tremendously from lot of people I know because she's very bright, had a warm personality, always had a smile, a big TV smile, and a lot of warmth," Wahid said. "She always showed warmth and affection, which makes it even more heartbreaking. I gave condolences to one of her sisters, and she said 'she always talked about you,' which hurt even more.
The tight-knit immigrant community has been shaken by the incident, Wahid said.
"I think so many of us are scared, so you look for community," she said. "Kids are asking questions, mothers and daughters are being scared. What does this mean for our women, our people?"
A neighbor, contacted by ABC News, said the area where Alawadi lived was very quiet, and neighbors were surprised to find out about the beating. She said that neighbors had not noticed anything out of the ordinary in the days leading up to the attack or on the morning of the beating.
The Center for American Islamic Relations in nearby San Diego said the community has dealt with hate crimes in the past, but not the beating death of a woman in her own home.
Hanif Mohebi, executive director of the center, said that if the murder turned out to be hate crime, he would not be entirely surprised.
"Would it surprise me? That's a very good question. It will not. It's unfortunate, but I have to say this. We do not expect it to be of this nature, beating someone to death, but if it is a hate crime, we have to be pretty honest with ourselves about the reality we're facing."