NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations is calling on police to investigate a possible bias motive in the fatal stabbing of a Muslim woman in Queens who was also the aunt of an NYPD officer.
As CBS2’s Christine Sloan reported, Nazma Khanam, 60, was stabbed and killed as she walked home with her 75-year-old husband, who has asthma and was following behind about a half block away, around 9:30 p.m. Wednesday.
She was on Normal Road at 160th Street, two blocks from her house, when police said she was suddenly attacked by someone who stabbed her in the torso.
Sources said the attacker may have been trying to rob her, but she put up a struggle and the suspect fled without taking anything, CBS2’s Janelle Burrell reported.
What appeared to be a kitchen knife was left lodged in Khanam’s chest. She was pronounced dead an hour after being taken to the hospital – leaving her family numb.
“A very sad situation,” said Khanam’s cousin, Mohammed Rahman, when asked how the victim’s husband was doing.
Family members said Khanam’s husband rushed up and held her in his arms.
“She was screaming, then when he looked, he didn’t see anybody, but see the blood, and he fell down also on the floor and someone called 911,” said Mazeda Uddin, a family member of the victim’s.
Officers searched storm drains. Sources said they were looking for the knife handle.
It is personal for the NYPD, as Khanam is the aunt of an officer. She was a teacher in her native Bangladesh, coming to the U.S. only seven years ago.
“She was really nice woman and she’s friendly with everybody,” Rahman said.
Close family friend Sayed Ahmed said Khanam’s husband and relatives are devastated, not understanding why she was targeted.
“She is a very quiet, gentle lady, amazing lady and she’s a teacher,” he said. “So we’re hoping the police will find out what is the reason and all these things and we’re praying for her soul.”
Family members feared that Khanam was targeted because she is Muslim.
“I am afraid about me also because I wear a hijab,” Uddin said.
Last month, a Queens imam and his associate were shot and killed after they left a mosque in Ozone Park. A suspect was charged, but the killings were not deemed hate crimes.
“Because of the recent killings of Muslims in Queens, and because of the growing number of anti-Muslim incidents nationwide resulting from the increasing Islamophobia in American society, we urge the NYPD to investigate a possible bias motive for this murder,” CAIR-NY Executive Director Afaf Nasher said in a statement.
But in the Khanam case, NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said at the scene that there are still too many unanswered questions.
“It’s too early in the investigation,” Boyce said.
Officials released surveillance video of a person of interest on Thursday.
The NYPD Muslim Officer Society tweeted out their condolences overnight, saying it was a member of their organization who lost a loved one.
Meanwhile, some residents admit with the killer still on the run, they’re uneasy.
“It makes me want to change my routine,” one neighbor told 1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck. “It’s just numbing — it’s hard to find words.”
“The thing that’s very shocking is this was 9 at night,” said resident Tahir Qayyum. “The fact that a few weeks ago, an imam was killed, the election the hate sentiment. I understand that everyone is going to say it was hate crime, but I don’t want to rush judgement until the police clarify.”
Khanam and her husband moved to the area from Bangladesh in 2009, CBS2’s Ali Bauman reported, but they had just become U.S. citizens in June. A funeral is scheduled for Friday.