WASHINGTON: Americans have raised almost $800,000 for the family of a Pakistani immigrant, killed during a carjacking last week, although the family had sought only $100,000.
Police have charged two teenage girls — aged 13 and 15 — with murder, felony and carjacking in this case that seems to have generated a wave of sympathy for the immigrant’s family.
The two girls allegedly approached Mohammad Anwar, a 66-year-old Uber delivery driver, while he was waiting for his client in Southeast Washington.
A video posted on Saturday showed the incident unfolding in a minute and a half, with Anwar hanging out of the front door as the girls tried to drive away the vehicle. It ends with Anwar’s Honda Accord on its side, the girls climbing out and a fatally injured Anwar sprawled motionless on the sidewalk.
By Monday afternoon, the video had been seen at least six million times on Twitter.
The GoFundMe campaign, which raises money for such causes, said they had received about $782,893 by Monday afternoon. The campaign had appealed for $100,000 — $20 each from individual donors — to meet the funeral and other expenses. People also left flowers at the scene of the incident.
“Although money will not fill the gaping hole his death has left in our family, it will help remove some of the stress and worry of daily living while we grieve and heal,” the family said in a statement shared with the media. “We cannot thank you enough, we are overwhelmed by the kindness and support that everyone has shown.”
Commander Ramey Kyle of the Washington DC Criminal Investigation Division said police had reasons to believe the teenagers were involved in similar incidents in the past as well.
“We know that at least one of them had participated in something similar back in January and were arrested for that as well,” he told reporters in Washington. “So, it does seem that there is a pattern here.”
Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser has launched a task force to focus on such incidents. “It is more than tragic. I don’t have words to describe it. It is senseless,” he said.
The US media reported that there has been a sharp increase in carjacking since last year, when the Covid-19 pandemic began. In 2019, Washington police had registered 143 reports of carjacking, which more than doubled to 345 carjacking incidents in 2020.
Most of the offenders are teenagers. Two days after Anwar’s death, two teenage boys – 12 and 15 – committed a similar carjacking in the same area. They drove away with the car after stabbing the driver.
“It is a sad situation. We have two young people that are facing very serious charges. They are even not old enough to drive,” Commander Kyle told reporters.
“It is very important that we find out the people responsible for these carjacking and that we have justice,” Mayor Bowser said.
On Monday, Uber issued a nationwide alert for its drivers and announced a plan to team up with the police 24/7.
Published in Dawn, March 30th, 2021