A Dallas teenager was seeking payback for an earlier shooting when he gunned down an Iraqi man last week who had recently fled the war-torn Middle Eastern country, police said Friday.
Nykerion Nealon, 17, was arrested late Thursday night and charged with murder in the death of Ahmed Jumaili, 36, who was shot outside the Walnut Bend Apartments on March 4, less than a month after he fled Iraq and was reunited with his wife.
Jumaili was taking pictures of a rare Dallas snowfall with his wife and brother around 11:40 p.m. when Nealon fired at least 15 rounds from an assault rifle, Dallas police Maj. Jeff Cotner told reporters Friday.
The 36-year-old yelled out, "I'm hit," and fled to his nearby apartment, before dying less than an hour later, police have said.
Jumaili's death followed the slayings of three Muslim students in North Carolina and a wave of anti-Islamic protests in nearby Garland, Texas, leading many to fear that Jumaili's slaying was a hate crime.
But Cotner said Thursday that Nealon did not know Jumaili and was unaware of his ethnicity.
During interviews on Wednesday and Thursday, a witness who was at the crime scene told police that someone opened fire on Nealon's girlfriend's apartment less than an hour before Jumaili was killed.
Nealon then called two friends, retrieved an assault rifle from his own apartment, and "went to locate the individuals who shot at his girlfriend's apartment," according to Cotner.
The witness told police that when Nealon spotted Jumaili and his family, he took cover behind a row of mailboxes and slowly took aim, Cotner said.
“When he saw Mr. Jumaili and his family, he targeted them. He shot at them with intent, and as Mr. Jumaili ran back towards his apartment … [Nealon] tracked him with the rifle," Cotner said. "He continued to fire.”
After the shooting, Nealon returned home and called police to report the shooting at his girlfriend's apartment, Cotner said.
Police are still trying to determine if the other three men who were at the crime scene will face criminal charges. Police recovered a 7.62-millimeter rifle cartridge -- consistent with the type of ammunition recovered at the crime scene -- inside Nealon's apartment, according to Cotner.
Nealon was interviewed by police at least twice, according to Cotner, and blamed the shooting on one of the other men who was at the scene. Police have not confirmed that the prior shooting at the apartment of Nealon's girlfriend actually occurred.
Jumaili and his wife, Zahara, had married in Iraq 16 months ago, according to an online fundraising page created for his family. Zahara left Iraq for Texas one year ago and her husband stayed behind until he could earn enough money to follow her.
North Dallas is home to a large community of Iraqi refugees, and the neighborhood where Jumaili was shot has a large immigrant population, according to Wes Magruder, a senior pastor with Kessler Park United Methodist Church and a local activist concerned with Muslim-Christian relations.
Jumaili and his wife had both obtained refugee settlement visas to leave Iraq, Magruder said.
“Our community has been at a loss for words and very saddened by this tragic death,” said Alia Salem, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations' Dallas-Fort Worth Chapter.
Follow @JamesQueallyLAT for breaking news