Members of a Muslim family whose house was shot at during a drive-by Thursday evening think they were targeted because of their faith.
Tuesday, a stranger driving by Allie and Maryam Taghavi’s home in southwest Oklahoma City stopped and asked their 21-year-old son the family’s religion.
A large sign hung on the porch and visible from the road said, “as-salamu alaykum,” an Arabic phrase often used by Muslims meaning “peace be with you.”
Without any suspicion, their son told the stranger they were Muslim, Allie Taghavi said. The stranger then drove away.
Then, two days later on Thursday evening, Allie Taghavi was home with three of his adult children when shots were fired around 7:45 p.m. from a car driving south on W Olie Avenue near their home at SW 30.
“I screamed when I heard the shots, but it was so rapid … like firecrackers,” he said.
Allie Taghavi ran from his bedroom into his 23-year-old daughter’s room where a bullet had come through the east side of their house, piercing a wall a few feet away from where she was sitting at her computer desk.
Seconds later, shots were fired into the bedroom just to the south where Allie Taghavi had been. One bullet crossed the width of his bedroom and passed into a bathroom where it lodged in the wall.
No one was injured in the incident. The family fled its home after police cleared the scene a few hours later. Family members said they don’t plan to return.
Police Master Sgt. Gary Knight said Oklahoma City’s gang unit is investigating the incident because it was reported as a drive-by shooting. Police responded to a call about multiple rounds being fired into the home from a car driving south on W Olie Avenue.
Two bullet holes were found in the home. No one had been arrested as of Friday evening.
Adam Soltani, executive director of the Oklahoma chapter on the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said his organization wants the shooting to be investigated as a possible hate crime.
“Our concern is the family’s safety,” he said. “If this is a bias crime … it’s concerning to us that anyone would be targeted because they are Muslim.”
Police found about 10 shell casings from at least two different guns Thursday night. Several more casings were found around the house Friday during the daylight hours.
Though some areas in their Capitol Hill neighborhood have been prone to violence, Maryam Taghavi, Allie’s wife, said the family has felt safe the 23 years it has been in the home. She doesn’t think it’s a coincidence that, just two days before, a stranger was asking about their religion.
“It couldn’t be a coincidence,” Maryam Taghavi said. “This is just wrong to me, and I can’t wrap my head around it.”
Anti-Islamic hate crimes jumped from around 36 in 2000 to 481 in 2001, according to FBI data. The numbers largely have stayed between around 100 and 160 in subsequent years, with 157 reported in 2011 in the state, the most recent year for which data is available.
Soltani said Oklahoma is typically a comfortable place for Muslims to live. But he’s troubled by the violence to the Taghavi family’s home, particularly in lieu of the recent targeting of mosques in the region and in Oklahoma City.
The Grand Mosque, 3201 NW 48, was vandalized with paintballs in August, just before the celebration of the end of Ramadan. No suspects have been arrested in that case.