FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The triple homicide on East Lewis Street is getting attention across the country, with many national outlets suggesting it’s a hate crime. From CNN to the Washington Post, the phone’s been ringing off the hook at police headquarters in downtown Fort Wayne.
“I’ve been inundated with phone calls from the national media. I think I’ve talked to probably every major outlet that there is in this country,” Fort Wayne Police Department spokesperson Michael Joyner said. “They don’t live here, so they really have no stake here. Theirs is just to write a story and to garner some interest whether it’s a TV program or a newspaper article or a radio show.”
All of that attention is coming from what police call a completely unfounded reason.
“It’s not a hate crime. This is not terrorism. This is a homicide investigation, that’s it. And, quite frankly, stop it, stop it. It’s a matter that’s handled by the police department. We’re throwing all of our resources at it, and we’re not going to be distracted by what is in the national media. Period,” Joyner said. “Law enforcement has nothing to hide. We’ve got a very open relationship with the media and with the community. We can say definitively that this is not a hate crime. This is going to be an isolated incident. But yet, the national media wants to turn it in to something that it’s not.”
On the evening of Feb. 24, officers found 23-year-old Mohamedtaha Omar, 20-year-old Adam Mekki, and 17-year-old Muhannad Tairab dead inside this home on Lewis Street. According to investigators, each victim was shot multiple times and authorities described the killings as “execution-style.”
Two of the three victims are Muslim, but police are very confident that had nothing to do with their tragic deaths.
“It seems to be important to the media at the national level to talk about it being a hate crime, and it’s not. Just because we’re dealing with individuals that were from a foreign nation that are American citizens, people want to make something out of this, and it’s not,” Joyner said.
The department said if this was in fact a hate crime, it would be the first to come out and say so. Leaders are also mentioning how calling this a hate crime only makes it harder for the victims’ families.
“It does no good for the community. It does no good for the family. They’re still reeling from the loss of loved ones, so let’s move on. Let’s help the process, allow the process to take place so we can bring closure to it,” Joyner said. “Three dead, basically kids, young adults that lost their lives in a way that they should not have. I think we need to focus on that fact, and not the fact that the media is trying to build and portray this as something a lot larger than it is. It’s big enough as a horrible death.”
Since the investigation started, police have said the men aren’t connected to gang activity themselves, but that the house where it happened may be.
“I think this is a crime of opportunity. They were at the wrong place. There’s been reports of activities going on in that household from our sources and people in the neighborhood of a lot of people coming and going. So, there may have been some activities in the house that was taking place that we’re not clear on just yet,” Fort Wayne Chief of Police Garry Hamilton said.
The U.S. District Attorney for Northern Indiana, David Kapp, along with local FBI leaders will meet with Chief Hamilton Tuesday as well as the victims’ families. The chief said bringing those officials in will continue to add clarity and ensure the investigation gets all of the attention it needs.
“We’re not working it as a hate crime at this time because we have nothing to prove that it’s a hate crime, but we want them to be involved with the information we have. We want to share it with them,” Hamilton said. “We hope someone sees this and understands how important this is and it affects not just one segment of the community, but the whole community. If we can send a message, it’s that we’re not going to allow a crime to take place regardless of it being a hate crime or a homicide investigation. It has to be solved, and we need the community input.”