The FBI has determined that no hate crime occurred on the day after Memorial Day in Lawrenceville, Georgia, when a Muslim woman dressed in a burqa came out of the woods behind a homeowner’s house, grabbed the family’s large American flag and attacked them with it.
The FBI was asked by local police to investigate whether Amina Ali Ahra, 30, may have committed a hate crime when she attacked homeowner Dami Arno and her 17-year-old daughter while the two were drinking coffee in their garage on the morning of Tuesday, May 31.
Ahra grabbed the family’s large flag off their mailbox and used the 4-foot long pole made of PVC pipe as a weapon, swinging it wildly at Arno’s head. The 42-year-old fought off the much larger Ahra and two neighbors helped restrain her until police arrived. At one point during the attack Arno’s 14-year-old son emerged from the house with the family pistol and pointed it at the woman assaulting his mother but did not fire a shot.
A federal law enforcement official told WND that Ahra has been determined to have mental health issues, which would make it unlikely for federal prosecutors to charge her with a hate crime.
“But if you want an example of someone who is radicalized you can’t get a better one than someone walking up and grabbing someone’s American flag and beating them with it,” said the official, who asked not to be identified.
Local police Chief Randy Johnson told WND that his department referred the case to the FBI.
But the agent assigned to the case never took the time to interview the Arno family or any of the other eyewitnesses to the attack.
“The FBI agent, Chuck Campo, never contacted our family. We finally reached him and he told us there was no hate crime and I am not entitled to any information on this woman who attacked me in my own home,” Arno said. “He wouldn’t even tell us whether or not she was legally here in this country.”
A Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office employee told Arno that the woman was in the U.S. on a visa or green card and was originally from Somalia.
The Atlanta area is among the top five or six U.S. destinations for Somali refugees, having received more than 4,000 since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, according to the U.S. State Department’s Refugee Processing Center.
“He said he sent the case back to Lawrenceville police and Lawrenceville told us they didn’t have it either,” Dami Arno told WND. “Nobody will talk to us. Nobody will tell us anything.”
Ahra remains in the Gwinnett County Adult Detention Center facing two counts of simple battery and one count of giving false information to police. She is being held on a $2,900 bond for each of the two counts of simple battery.
“How can you say you did an investigation when you never even talked to the victim, never made a phone call or a visit,” said Dami Arno, a stay-at-home mother of two who is married to a mechanic. “The FBI told me if I feel in fear of my life to contact my local police.”
She and her husband, Jimmy, say they have already called their local police chief twice and he has yet to respond three weeks after the attack.
‘I could not let it go down like that’
Katie Borowski, one of the two neighbors who came running out of her house to assist in the take down of the female Muslim attacker, told WND the woman was “clawing” at her neighbor’s face when she arrived on the scene.
“I heard yelling and a commotion going on outside and I looked out and saw Dami defending herself from this very large woman who was attacking her,” Borowski said. “I could not stand there and let it go down like that. This is my neighbor and my friend.
“I didn’t even see the flag. It was already on the ground. So I came over and helped defend Dami,” she continued. “I held one arm and Dami held the other. At one point she did reach for my throat. She grabbed the front collar of my shirt as I pulled back.”
Borowski said she was outside the night before and saw a woman with a Muslim “head wrap” walking around the neighborhood.
“I didn’t pay too much attention to it because I just figured she’s visiting someone in the neighborhood and I didn’t want to report it and be seen as singling anyone out (because of their race or religion),” Borowski told WND.
Borowski said she was “totally shocked” that the FBI decided not to press any federal charges against Ahra and refused to give any information about her.
“We don’t know where she came from or where she was going,” she said. “I’m very shocked to hear them say they closed the case. They didn’t speak to any of us in the neighborhood.”
Living in fear
Borowski said she is on edge now and “living in fear.”
Lawrenceville has received 24 Somali refugees since 2002 and has a mosque not far from the neighborhood where the attack occurred.
“It’s very disconcerting. I don’t sleep well at night,” Borowski said. “My husband works nights and I’ve purchased a firearm and I will defend myself and my children. This used to be a sleepy little neighborhood but it’s sad, the times we live in. If someone would have told me you would have to defend your neighbor from a Muslim attacking her with her own flag, I would have laughed at them, but my sense of security has been shattered.”
She said she is not happy with the local police effort any more than the FBI.
“The police should have done more to find out where she was coming from and where she was going,” she said.
Dami Arno said they will not lie down and be passive.
“All he (agent Campo) kept saying was ‘I can give you no information, I can give you no information.’ We’re not ones to roll over. We’re going to stand up and fight.”
She said the family has been in contact with a state legislator who is working on legislation that would provide some sort of punishment for refugees or immigrants guilty of violent crimes against Americans — something besides a mere simple battery misdemeanor.