Homicide detectives from the Fairfax County Police Department will continue to lead the investigation into the death of 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen of Reston.
Jurisdictional issues have arisen since the crime, which took place just before 4 a.m. Sunday. Police say Nabra was assaulted and abducted near the intersection of Dranesville Road and Woodson Drive, which is just east of the Fairfax/Loudoun county line. Police say she was then taken to Loudoun County, where she was assaulted again and her body was thrown into a pond.
According to police accounts, Nabra and a group of friends had been at a Ramadan service at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society and were on their way back after going to breakfast at the McDonald’s in the Town Center at Sterling plaza. Both of those places are just west of the Fairfax/Loudoun line.
“The Fairfax County Police Department has partnered closely with the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office with the common goal of justice for Nabra as well as for her family, friends and community,” FCPD said in a news release. “Our department will continue to work alongside the Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney as this case moves forward.”
Police have charged 22-year-old Darwin Martinez Torres, a Salvadoran national, with murder in the case. They say Torres became enraged with the group of teens and exited his car wielding a baseball bat, striking Nabra. An autopsy revealed her cause of death as blunt force trauma.
Nabra was finishing her sophomore year at South Lakes High School.
Police say they are not investigating Nabra’s death as a hate crime; however, Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Raymond Morrogh has said he will continue to weigh the possibility before deciding how to proceed with the case. Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Plowman says he supports the decision to keep the case in Fairfax County and “will lend any assistance if requested.”
Just before a funeral service for Nabra got underway Wednesday afternoon at the ADAMS Center, some members of the area’s Muslim community made their anger about the crime known.
“It’s disgusting, the fact that this is being investigated as a road-rage incident as opposed to being a hate crime,” said Baidan Ali, 20, of Annandale. “She was black, she was a Muslim, she was a female. It’s disgusting and there’s nothing really left to say about it. It’s sad that we can’t express our religion freely without having to worry about incidents like this happening.”
Omar Ghowrwal, of Ashburn, said he is confident police will investigate the case thoroughly and get to the bottom of what led to Nabra’s death.
“In the general area, it’s very somber [and] we’re obviously upset — people are sad, some are scared, some are concerned,” he said. “I think most of us, though, we just want to see justice meted out and we hope that happens.”
FCPD says it is working closely with the Muslim community to assure them that they have police support and justice will be served.
“We know this is an incredibly difficult time, especially for our Muslim community,” FCPD said in the release. “Chief Edwin C. Roessler Jr. met [Tuesday] with leaders from the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS Center) including Imam Mohamed Magid and Chaplain Joshua Salaam. The Chief assured them we will continue to diligently investigate the case and provide our support. We have a long-standing relationship with the ADAMS Center, and our hearts go out to everyone in our Muslim community and beyond for this tragic crime.”
Hurunnessa Fariad, media representative for the ADAMS Center, said people are still trying to wrap their heads around what happened, and counselors are being made available for anyone who needs emotional support. She also said ADAMS is talking with law enforcement as they work toward investigating the case to its fullest extent.
“We want every possible motive there is to be brought on the table, even if there is [only a] 0.5 percent chance that it’s a hate crime — we want it on the table,” Fariad said. “We’re confident that they are doing the best they can to make sure they don’t leave any stones unturned.”