In the Face of Evil

All of us come face to face with evil, not all of us survive.

Down a wooded stretch of road in Walla Walla, Inmate number 337762 sleeps the long nights away at Washington State Penitentiary. WSP offers educational programs in graphic design, bookkeeping and IT as well as a program to raise pheasants. The Eid feast took place in the dining hall and it’s likely that Inmate 337762 stopped by for a bite.

If some nights when the wind blows cold, Inmate 337762 dreams it is likely that he dreams of his day of glory when he shot six women at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle.

Naveed Afzal Haq, known in Walla Walla as Inmate 337762, is not the only Muslim serving time at WSP, but he is probably the only successful Jihadist there. Mikhail Jihad, also known as Michael McCright, passed through there after trying to attack a car carrying military personnel. Mike Jihad was in contact with Abu Khalid Abdul-Latif and Walli Mujahidh who were planning to storm the South Seattle military processing station with automatic rifles and grenades hoping to kill as many recruits as possible. But while Jihad, Abdul-Latif and Mujahidh unsuccessfully went after the military, Naveed Haq picked a softer target: a Jewish community center.

While Naveed Haq sleeps in Walla Walla, Pamela Waechter rests in Givaot Olam Cemetery, on her recessed stone is a single carved flower. Pamela was not Naveed Haq’s only victim, but she was the only who didn’t survive his shooting spree.

The victims were all women, some Jewish, some not. Cheryl Stumbo, the center’s marketing director, stepped out of her office when she heard a disturbance. Naveed Haq had put a gun to her fourteen year old niece and forced her to use the intercom so he could enter the building. He shot Cheryl in the stomach. Shards of the bullet pierced her large and small intestine and lodged in her uterus. When she asked him why he was doing this. Naveed Haq identified himself as an angry Muslim and shouted something about “You Jews”. Cheryl was not Jewish, she just worked there.

Layla Bush wasn’t Jewish either, but he still shot her and she lay bleeding on the floor. The bullet damaged her pancreas, liver, kidney and spleen… missing her heart by only an inch. Since then she walks with a cane and can’t stand or sit for very long. At the trial, Naveed Haq’s attorney, John Carpenter, asked her if he seemed panicked, working to establish an insanity defense for his client. Bush replied that Naveed Haq seemed deliberate in his actions.

Christina Rexroad, the center’s bookkeeper, lost her entire volume of blood at the scene and went into cardiac arrest, and died at the scene. She was revived and died again on the operating table and still lived to testify at Naveed’s trial. Dayna Klein was pregnant that day. As Naveed Haq fired, she put her hand over her abdomen and took the bullet in her arm to protect her unborn child.

Tammy Kaiser heard gunshots and hid behind a box containing materials on the Holocaust. “Here I am. I’m a Jew. I’m hunted,” she thought.  As Haq tried to enter her office, she ran for the second story window and tried to jump out. Her hair caught on the window latch and she hung there until the latch tore away and she fell. She survived the fall, but the Star of David pendant that she wore around her neck was never found.

It has been five long years since that summer massacre and the word Muslim rarely comes up. Like Major Nidal Malik Hasan of the Fort Hood Massacre and so many other lone Muslim gunmen, Naveed Haq was described as “troubled” and “mentally unstable”. Much was made of Haq’s temporary conversion to Christianity and supposed psychiatric problems. Less was made of his father’s role as a founding member of the Islamic Center of Tri-Cities.

Haq brought two .45 caliber automatic pistols with him that day, along with a knife, and a hatred of Jews. “I am a Muslim American, angry at Israel,” Haq announced at the center’s offices. The killings that followed were not random. They were the purposeful work of a man whose goal was to kill as many Jews as possible in order to make a statement. The statement was made, but no one listened.

“I want these Jews to get out,” Naveed Haq could be heard saying on the 911 call. But it still took two trials to find him guilty, the first one ended in a hung jury. Recorded phone conversations were played for the jury where he described Pamela Waechter as an “Israeli collaborator” using language reminiscent of the BDS movement. “I did a very good thing. I did it for a good reason,” he told his mother.

But face to face with law enforcement, Haq fell back on the old moderate Muslim defense. “I sympathize with Muslims, you know. But I’m not an extremist,” he said. “I didn’t want to kill anybody.” During sentencing he assured the court, “I am not a man filled with hate.”

Muslim organizations rushed to offer the same denials disavowing Haq’s actions as having nothing to do with Islam, but they know quite well that there are countless Fatwas that justify them. How was Haq any different from the Mumbai terrorists who attacked the Chabad House there, or from Ahmed Ferhani and Mohamed Madouh who plotted to blow up a synagogue in Manhattan, or the Bronx bomb plotters who intended to attack the Riverdale Jewish Center or the Los Angeles Terror Plot which targeted synagogues by a group known as Jam’iyyat Ul-Islam Is-Saheeh.

Is there some peculiar species of mental illness which causes Muslims, singly and in groups, to want to murder to Jews, or is it simply a matter of religion? Conclusions emerge through the study of patterns. Naveed Haq, celebrating Eid in Walla Walla, is one bright red point on a map that stretches across the country. New York. Los Angeles. And back to New York.

Jews, Christians, Hindus, there are so many targets. Times Square. A Christmas tree lighting. A plane full of passengers flying home for the holidays. And five years ago there were six women in an office waiting for their day to end.

There will be more. That is the one thing we can always be sure of. Evil does not go away. It does not go away if you call it mental illness or blame it on socioeconomic conditions or the temperature or foreign policy. As those women did in July or as thousands of New Yorkers did in September, sooner or later we all come face to face with evil. Not all of us survive.

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