The man who was shot and killed Monday night escaped violence in Iraq, only to have it find him here.
Ahmed Muafaq Abdulhu Al Naddf, 40, was an Iraqi refugee who immigrated to the United States in 2014. He, his wife and their two young children left their home country and settled in Rochester shortly thereafter, with help from a local branch of Catholic Charities.
On Monday night, Al Naddf was shot and killed with a single bullet to the chest near his home in the 2800 block of Charles Court Northwest. Four men have been arrested in connection with the shooting — the motive for which is still unclear — and will likely face charges of second-degree murder.
What is clear to those who knew Al Naddf is that he was a “great family man,” who sometimes worked multiple jobs to support his family. His wife and two young children were the motivation behind everything he did, friends said.
His friends and co-workers say he was a “very hard worker” who wanted to build a savings and credit history so he could buy a home in another neighborhood.
By training, Al Naddf was a highly educated engineer, said his friend Zaid Al Showbacki. Since 2015, shortly after his move to Rochester, Al Naddf began a full-time job as the front desk manager at the Brentwood Inn and Suites, according to the hotel’s general manager, Monte Luke.
“He was an extremely reliable, friendly employee,” said Luke, noting he was in shock Tuesday. “A nice person to have around.”
On the side, Al Naddf used his mechanical skills to repair cars.
Kristina Hammell, the director of refugee resettlement with Catholic Charities in Rochester, called him a “great family man,” and a “pleasure to work with.”
Suspects expected to be charged Thursday
Within 12 hours of the shooting, Rochester police had arrested four suspects in connection with the case.
The first reports of a shot fired came in to police around 8:59 p.m. About 15 minutes later, Al Naddf was pronounced dead.
Initially, police had no suspects and had trouble identifying Al Naddf because he had no identification on him. But surveillance video from The Hylands apartment complex led them to three men, whom they arrested overnight Monday, according to Rochester Police Capt. John Sherwin. Those men included 25-year-old Eric Tyler Lee, 24-year-old Sao Yim Jr. and 23-year-old Traequan Bamlounghong. The fourth man, 24-year-old Deante Stanifer, was arrested around 8:35 a.m. Tuesday.
“This is not our typical homicide victim,” Sherwin said. “This is a man who did not know these people, for what we know.”
“There’s nothing here to indicate that the victim did anything wrong, other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time,” he added.
After Al Naddf had been shot, the surveillance footage shows two of the suspects going through Al Naddf’s pockets, Sherwin said.
“Two of the individuals went through the victim’s pants as he lay dying on the street,” he said. “That says a lot right there.”
Though the suspects have told police there was a minor fender bender before the shooting, Sherwin said robbery is still being considered as a motive.
A search warrant, executed Tuesday morning at 2802 Charles Court NW, turned up the weapon police believe the suspects used, as well as property belonging to Al Naddf, Sherwin said. None of the suspects were residents at the apartment complex, but Sherwin called one of the suspects a “frequent visitor” to an apartment there.
A tight-knit community shaken
Al Naddf’s death not only marks Rochester’s second homicide of the year, but the second death for a small, tight-knit Iraqi community in the city.
The first incident on Jan. 14, which started as a fender bender, ended with 25-year-old Alexander Weiss allegedly shooting and killing 17-year-old Muhammed Rahim, whose family members are also Iraqi immigrants.
Al Showbacki said many of those refugees fled war in the hope of finding a safe place to raise their families. Any feeling of safety has been at least temporarily dashed, Al Showbacki said, who is a friend of the family and an Iraqi immigrant himself.
“They escaped war for a safe place. Ironic,” he said, pointing to rankings that consistently laud Rochester as a safe community. “It’s really shocked this community — they have this sense that they’re not safe here anymore.”
From 2007 through today, Rochester has attracted more immigrants from Iraq — 299 — than any other Minnesota city, according to an analysis of U.S. State Department data by the Associated Press.
In the January shooting, Weiss and Rahim allegedly got into an argument. Weiss went to his vehicle to retrieve a firearm, which police say he used to shoot and killed Rahim, who was unarmed. Weiss is facing a second-degree murder-without intent charge. He entered a not guilty plea in the case in February, maintaining he acted in self defense. A jury trial is scheduled to begin July 9.
“We’ve had two shootings in a matter of two months,” Sherwin said. “Two bullets that have changed two families lives forever, for really nothing.”
But amid the the shock of it all, the community has come together.
The mourning began with a cultural funeral held Tuesday night, and will continue over the next few days, Al Showbacki said.
“I was shocked. We were receiving people from every corner of this city,” he said. “A lot of people showed up because they knew what kind of person he was.”
And there’s already talk about strengthening their ties in support of one another, and to advocate for their safety in the community, Al Showbacki said.
“We need a voice, to stay together and support each other.”