By Ashley Killough and Nouran Salahieh, CNN
One of four Muslim men slain in potentially linked Albuquerque killings had attended a funeral for two of the other victims on Friday and expressed fear about the shootings, a mosque spokesman told CNN.
He was gunned down later that night.
Naeem Hussain, 25, was found dead by Albuquerque police officers who responded to reports of a shooting just before midnight Friday. He became the third Muslim man killed in the city within the span of two weeks, and the fourth since November 2021.
While no description of his killer was available, Albuquerque police said Hussain’s death “may be connected” to the three previous killings of Muslim men from South Asia.
Those three men — Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27, Aftab Hussein, 41, and Mohammad Ahmadi, 62 — were all “ambushed with no warning, fired on and killed,” Hartsock previously said.
While the investigation is still ongoing and police have not definitively said all the attacks are connected, they have announced they are seeking “a vehicle of interest,” which may be connected to the four killings.
Naeem Hussain migrated as a refugee from Pakistan in 2016 — fleeing persecution as a Shia Muslim — and had just become a US citizen last month, according to his brother-in-law, Ehsan Shahalami.
“He was the most generous, kind, giving, patient, and down-to-earth person that I could ever meet,” said Shahalami. “He was very hardworking. He shared whatever he made with his family back home.”
The young man, who opened his own trucking business this year, had plans to bring his wife over from Pakistan and buy some property in Virginia, Shahalami said.
“He had a lot of dreams, and he accomplished some of them,” Shahalami said. “His others were cut short by this heinous act.”
The day he was killed, Hussain attended a funeral for two other Muslim men who were recently killed in the city, according to Tahir Gauba, director of public affairs with the Islamic Center of New Mexico.
Hussain went to a lunch at the mosque after the funerals and approached Gauba to ask if he had more information on the shootings, Gauba told CNN.
“He stopped by to say ‘hey, what’s going on?’ He was worried. I told him to be careful,” Gauba said.
“We thought after burial of these two young men (on Friday), we would have closure and move on and let law enforcement investigate,” Gauba said. “Waking up Saturday morning to his death, the whole community just feels helpless. There’s a lot of fear.”
“It’s driving everybody crazy,” Gauba added.
The killings have put the city’s Muslim community on edge as police investigate potential links between the attacks, all of which involved Muslim men of South Asian descent.
The other Muslim men killed — Muhammed Afzaal Hussain and Aftab Hussein — were members of the same mosque, were both from Pakistan and were murdered in southeast Albuquerque just days apart, according to police.
After their killings, police began investigating whether the Nov. 7, 2021 slaying of Mohammad Ahmadi, a Muslim man from Afghanistan, was connected.
As the investigation continues, the Islamic Center, where about 700 to 800 Muslims gather on Fridays, has been warning residents to be cautious.
“We urge everyone to take precautions and be aware of your surroundings including making sure that you are not being followed home and avoid walking alone at night,” the Islamic Center of New Mexico posted on Facebook. “This is especially true for our members living in the southeast part of the city where these killings have taken place.”
After Hussain’s killing Friday, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced she will send additional state police to Albuquerque.
The city is also increasing police presence at mosques, Muslim-affiliated schools and the University of New Mexico, officials announced.
“We have heard from the community that the fear is so strong, there is a concern about even things like groceries and getting meals for certain folks in certain areas of town,” Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said in a weekend briefing, adding the city is helping with providing meals for those affected by the killings.
Gauba said Albuquerque has always felt like a welcoming community for Muslims, even after 9/11. “This is the first time we are feeling this kind of atmosphere,” he said. “We are in fear.”
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