The family of murdered Iranian-American engineering student Shayan Mazroei, 22, want authorities to consider it a hate crime.
Craig Tanber, a white supremacist gang member allegedly stabbed Mazroei outside a California bar on September 7. Given his gang links and ideology, the family’s attorney Neama Rahmani wants a closer look at Taber’s motive.
“Our clients lost their only child to a heinous act of racism and violence,” said Neama Rahmani of West Coast Trial Lawyers, the law firm representing the Mazroei family. “We will not rest until we obtain justice against those responsible for Shayan’s tragic death.”
Witnesses claim that the suspect’s girlfriend described Mazroei as a ‘terrorist’ and said “f—ing Iranians” before Tanber attacked him.
Investigators are not convinced that race was a motivating factor.
“It’s not even close to have enough evidence to charge it as a hate crime. It is a murder, it is charged as a murder,” said Senior Deputy District Attorney Larry Yellin.
Shayan’s mother Shahzad Mazroei could not hide her tears at a recent press conference. A source told the New York Daily News that she had flown back from Iran after learning of his murder. She has lost her son, a promising student of mechanical engineering at Saddleback College.
A coalition of organisations including the National Iranian American Council , American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Council on American Islamic Relations, Greater Los Angeles Area Chapter, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Iranian Alliances Across Borders, Muslim Public Affairs Council, and The Sikh Coalition, submitted a letter to the Department of Justice urging a federal hate crime investigation.
The letter read, “It is a tragedy that such a senseless act of violence has resulted in the loss of life of a young Iranian-American man. Reports that such violence was committed as a direct result of Mr. Mazroei’s Iranian heritage are a painful reminder that racism, bigotry, and extremism persist in our day and age”.
After the press conference on September 28, the local Iranian-American community held a candlelight vigil outside the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
Before the murder, Tanber was on parole in relation to a 2004 murder. He struck a plea bargain after a mistrial declaration. In 2007, he plead guilty to dissuading a witness by force, street terrorism and assault with a deadly weapon. He received a 13-year prison sentence.
Had the conviction for the special murder conviction stuck he would face a life sentence without parole.
If convicted of Mazroei’s murder, Taber faces 76 years in prison. A sentence that increases to life if prosecutors add hate crime charges.
Taber faces arraignment on October 2.