Albuquerque Suspect Allegedly Abused His Family for Years

·15 min read
Albuquerque Police Department
Albuquerque Police Department

Even as police offered new details into the execution-style slayings of at least two Muslim men in Albuquerque, the long, sprawling record of alleged violence by the chief suspect in the murders came into focus.

Among the wild array of arrests for battery and domestic violence detailed in court records obtained by The Daily Beast against Muhammad Syed, the 51-year-old has allegedly threatened to kill his daughter’s boyfriend, beat his wife in a state building, lacerated his son’s head with a metal spoon, kicked a Walmart employee, and punished his daughter after she refused to take her brother to college with her as an escort.

But despite the alleged years-long abuse, Syed never faced charges, in part, because his family always seemed to downplay the incident once police arrived at the scene. On multiple occasions, police officers had difficulty taking reports because the family said they did not speak English, and required the help of a telephone translation service in their native Pashto. Often, Syed’s children acted as translators between their parents and the police.

On one occasion, Syed’s son told police that his mother was instructing him in Pashto to tell the police no violence was occurring at the house. On another, Syed told police they could not speak directly to his wife because it was “not accepted” in his culture. As recently as February of this year, police advised the family that “withholding information is not okay” after an incidence of domestic violence.

Even now, as Syed is implicated in at least four murders, his wife and daughter are still standing by his side.

“I believe they will release my father,” his daughter Lubna told KRQE. “He didn’t do anything.”

The revelations come as Syed’s son, Shaheen “Maiwand” Syed, was arrested for allegedly giving a false address when he purchased two rifles in 2021. In an affidavit obtained by The Daily Beast, an ATF agent alleges the son violated federal law by indicating he lived in Florida when he'd lived in New Mexico.

Attempts by The Daily Beast to contact the family were unsuccessful. Megan Mitsunaga, who is representing Muhammad Syed, did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment.

Muhammad Syed is accused of murdering Aftab Hussein, 41, on July 26, and Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27, on Aug. 1. He’s also the main suspect in the homicides of Naeem Hussain, 25, who was killed on Aug. 5 after attending a funeral for the other two victims, and Mohammad Ahmadi, 62, who was gunned down in November outside a market he operated with his brother.

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>Muhammed Afzaal Hussain, one of the four Muslim men killed. </p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">JORDAN YUTZY</div>

Muhammed Afzaal Hussain, one of the four Muslim men killed.

JORDAN YUTZY

On Wednesday afternoon, Syed appeared via a video feed for his initial court appearance with his hands cuffed and ankles chained. Speaking through an interpreter, Syed asked if he could “talk for myself,” but was denied by his lawyer—who asked the court not to allow him to make any statements. “Whatever you guys think is the right thing, sounds good,” Syed reportedly replied, before Judge Renée Torres revealed she was transferring the case to a district court, where bail will be determined.

According to a criminal complaint obtained by The Daily Beast, Syed was pulled over by police on Monday about 100 miles from the Texas state line. He allegedly said he was driving to Houston to find a new place for his family because things were “bad” in Albuquerque. Many in the local Muslim community have taken measures to protect themselves in the face of what appeared like a possible hate crime spree.

While he denied any wrongdoing in the police stop, the complaint states the authorities found a handgun in the car—and a bullet casing between the dashboard and the windshield. The casing and the handgun, authorities said, matched ballistic evidence found at the Aug. 1 crime scene.

During an interview with Albuquerque police, Syed added that he also owns an AK-47 “and likes the platform because he had one in Afghanistan,” before noting that he was in Special Forces and fought “against the Taliban.” He added that he keeps “his AK-47 in a cardboard box, under his bed, in his bedroom.”

Syed also allegedly told police he knew another one of the victims—Naeem Hussain—since at least 2016 and “recognized Aftab Hussein from parties in the community,” but refused to provide details about their relationship and denied any role in the series of killings that sent a Muslim community into a state of terror.

His wife and daughter, however, have said that the family knew three of the four men who were killed.

In a previous interview with Times, Ahmad Assed, the president of the city’s biggest mosque, said authorities told him that the suspect is a Sunni Muslim who possibly targeted victims because he was angry over his daughter marrying a Shiite Muslim. Police have said they are investigating that possibility, but have not definitively indicated a motive in the series of murders that devastated New Mexico’s largest city.

The criminal complaint states that Syed was allegedly hiding behind a bush near where Aftab Hussein usually parked his car and shot him multiple times when he got home. Days later, Syed allegedly shot Afzaal Hussain in a drive-by shooting while he was walking near his apartment.

Records obtained by The Daily Beast indicate that Syed, his wife, and son were previously accused of assaulting his daughter’s then-boyfriend—who may now be her husband, public records show—as early as 2017. Syed also has a history of allegations of domestic violence and aggravated assault against his wife and children, going back to 2017.

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller speaks to an interfaith memorial ceremony at the New Mexico Islamic Center mosque to commemorate four murdered Muslim men, hours after police said they had arrested a prime suspect in the killings.</p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">ANDREW HAY</div>

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller speaks to an interfaith memorial ceremony at the New Mexico Islamic Center mosque to commemorate four murdered Muslim men, hours after police said they had arrested a prime suspect in the killings.

ANDREW HAY

In a July 2017 domestic violence incident report, Lubna reported “ongoing verbal and physical disputes with her very conservative Muslim parents.” The report states after officers arrived at the house on a “family dispute call,” Lubna told the officer that she “had a class” at the University of New Mexico and “her father and mother wanted their unnamed son to go with her because they feared for her safety, but she did not want to be escorted.”

Police then spoke to Syed, who told officers through translations that “he did not hit Lubna and that based on disrespect and the concern for her safety in her community, his wife… did grab her by the arm as she walked out on them.” Syed also said that some boys in their apartment complex “had been harassing” his daughter and he did not want her to leave their unit alone.

“Lubna did not wish to be escorted by anyone and that she did not feel in danger by herself,” the July 13, 2017 report states. The officer added that he did notice that the 20-year-old’s arm had “redness” and there was swelling around her eye—but could not make an arrest as Lubna “did not want her father arrested because it would only make their family dynamic worse.”

Months later, on Dec. 17, 2017, police were called to the UNMH hospital where Syed told them about an altercation he and his wife Bibi had had with a man called Iftikhar Amir (spelled “Eftekhar-Amir” in the report, which also spells Syed’s first name as “Mohammed.”). Syed said his daughter, Lubna, had come home hours late from work that day. When confronted by her mother about where she had been, Syed said Lubna admitted to hanging out with a young man, Iftikhar Amir, and then fled from the house.

The couple said they then followed Lubna in their car to an unknown address where they confronted Iftikhar. Bibi slapped Iftikhar in the face, according to Syed’s account to the police. Iftikhar then put his hands around Bibi’s neck and tried to choke her. As he tried to push Iftikhar away, Syed said Iftikhar “pulled out a large knife and started to slash at him.” The police report noted that Syed had a visible laceration on his chest and a small scratch on his stomach.

Syed said he knew nothing about Iftikhar other than that he was from Afghanistan. He would not let his wife Bibi speak with the police officer who took the report, saying that was “not accepted in our culture.’

Days later, authorities say that Syed was arrested after he attacked and beat Iftikhar Amir, who by then is described by police as Lubna’s boyfriend. (Property records show that Lubna Syed and Iftikhar Hussain Am Jan took out a mortgage for an Albuquerque home in November 2021. They are also listed as the property’s current owners for the 2022 tax year on the Bernalillo County Assessor’s website.)

Iftikhar told police on Dec. 23, 2017, that he was sitting in Lubna’s car, when three members of her family opened the car door, pulled him out of the vehicle, and started punching and kicking him. Iftikhar identified the assailants as Lubna’s father, brother, and mother. He told police that Lubna’s family attacked him because they “did not want her having a relationship with [him].” The beating left Iftikhar with a bleeding nose, bruised face, and scratched body, and he was transported to the hospital in an ambulance, according to a police report obtained by The Daily Beast.

Syed was charged with battery, but the case against him was dropped.

In early 2018, officers were called to a disturbance involving Iftikhar and Syed. Iftikhar told police that he and Syed were arguing about “Iftikhar dating Muhammad's daughter, Lubna.” Iftikhar said Syed had threatened to kill him.

When a police officer contacted Syed, he said he had been receiving threatening late-night phone calls from Iftikhar. Syed denied threatening Iftikhar, saying he just wanted him to stop calling. An officer also interviewed Lubna, who said she had not heard her father make any threats, but confirmed the two had been arguing about her relationship with Iftikhar.

Iftikhar declined to press any charges against Syed, but told an officer he hoped he would leave him alone. The police ordered the two men to stay away from each other, and no charges were filed.

Three months later, Syed was once again the subject of a domestic violence call. In May 2018, Syed and his wife Bibi started arguing in the car on the way to an appointment at the New Mexico Department of Human Services, according to an arrest report obtained by The Daily Beast. Bibi told police it was her first time driving the car, and Syed became enraged by the mistakes she was making. He began to scream and yell that she was a bad driver, and then grabbed her by the hair and threw her out of the car, Bibi told police. She was forced to walk for two hours to get the rest of the way to the Human Services building, according to her statement.

Syed arrived at the Human Services around an hour and a half before Bibi, according to witnesses interviewed by the police. Bibi told police Syed was angry that it had taken her so long to get to the appointment, and had thrown her to the ground. Employees heard Bibi yelling in distress from the building’s lobby, and then Erica Montoya, an employee who helped process the couple’s documents, found Bibi lying on the floor, yelling “My husband! My husband!” with a large chunk of hair missing from her scalp. Syed told police Bibi had slapped him across the face in their car and had pushed and kicked him at the office.

The battery charges against Syed were ultimately dropped.

Marriage of Suspect’s Daughter Eyed in Albuquerque Slayings

Seven months later, Syed’s son Maiwand, called the police after locking himself in the family’s bathroom, saying that his father was outside beating his mother, Bibi, with a large metal slotted spoon. He told police that Syed had been attacking his mother while his sister, Lubna, tried to restrain him and that Syed had then struck Maiwand in the head. When the police arrived they found the back of Maiwand’s head soaked with blood. He told police that Muhammed routinely beat him and his mother, Bibi. However, as Maiwand translated for his mother, who did not speak English, he told police she was denying that any violence had occurred and telling him not to tell the police anything. Syed was arrested for aggravated battery, but the case against him was later dropped.

Records show that in 2019, Syed was the subject of other police reports though the accusations against him didn’t result in arrests. In May of that year, police issued Syed and a person named Joey White a criminal summons for food stamp fraud under $250 after cops were called to a disturbance at a meat market, records show.

An incident report reveals that White sold Syed a food stamp card the day before and that Syed called him and demanded he meet him so he could get the PIN number to use the card. White said he tried the pin but it didn’t work, and Syed began to yell at him. During the fracas, Syed apparently called 911. “Muhammad attempted to purchase 159 dollars worth of meat but the purchase did not go through,” the incident report states. “Muhammad began to get upset with Joey because Joey would not give him the pin. Muhammad called the police wanting his money back that he paid Joey.”

Five months later, records show, that a Home Depot security officer accused Syed of shoplifting a flashlight that cost $119.91. The security employee said Syed hid the item and walked out of the store before the employee confronted him near the door. The employee recovered the item and called the police after Syed left the property. “No further action took place,” the incident report notes. “Home Depot would not proceed with prosecution and the case will be considered closed.”

A January 2020 incident report also detailed a harrowing altercation between Syed and a Walmart employee. The report states that Msambya Eboko, via Swahili translator, told authorities that on Jan. 22, 2020, he was bringing “carts inside Walmart” when Syed approached him.

“Mr. Eboko told me that Mr. Syed was speaking English to him, saying something to the effect of, why are you looking at me,” the report states, noting that the pair previously met at a class to learn English. “Mr. Syed then tried to kick Mr. Eboko and missed. Mr. Syed kicked at Mr. Eboko a second time and did kick him on the right side of his right leg.”

The report states that Eboko ran into the store to find security, but Syed followed him. “Mr. Eboko tried to avoid Mr. Syed who was still acting confrontational, making chest bumping actions into the air and staring at Mr. Eboko.” Security footage reviewed by authorities later showed Syed throwing an object toward Eboko and trying to physically harm him.

Syed was issued a summons for battery against Eboko, though the status of the case is not immediately clear.

Meanwhile, records show Syed was arrested in February 2020 for allegedly resisting, evading, or obstructing an officer (refusal to stop) and failure to obey traffic control devices/failure to obey sign. In a police report, the arresting officer said he pursued Syed after observing his maroon Honda run a red light at a four-way intersection.

According to the report, the cop turned on his squad car’s emergency lights and followed Syed’s car for about four blocks and into the parking lot of an apartment complex. Syed “did not exit the vehicle” after the officer ordered him to do so over the P.A. system, the document states.

Cops then handcuffed Syed and put him in the back of a patrol car, and an interpreter was called to explain to Syed why he was being arrested. The report indicates Syed’s son was also brought over to translate for him since he only spoke Pashto.

“I had Muhammad step out of the vehicle and asked if he was going to cooperate and sign the citation,” the officer noted in the report. “Muhammad then stated that I was ‘good man’ and my sergeant was a ‘motherfucker.’”

“Muhammad’s son asked him if he was going to comply or if he wanted to go to jail,” the officer continued. “Muhammad’s son attempted to reason with him but Muhammad just elevated his voice and got more angry.”

The son, according to the report, indicated that his dad “wanted to go to jail,” so Syed was transported to the Bernalillo County jail and booked on the charges.

According to a March criminal complaint, authorities were dispatched after Syed’s son, Maiwand Syed, allegedly “hit his father and sister.” Speaking through an interpreter, Syed told authorities that his son knocked on his sister’s door while she was studying “and started hitting his sister for an unknown reason.”

The complaint states that Syed then went to stop the altercation—which prompted his son to turn the abuse onto him. Authorities said that while Syed had “blood all over his face,” he denied medical attention and insisted on pressing charges, adding “I want justice.”

But when the officer went inside the house, Maiwand was nowhere to be found and the other family members refused to tell authorities information about the incident. The report even states that Syed’s wife insisted he “was lying” and refused to even provide authorities with her son’s birthday.

By the time authorities got a chance to speak to Syed’s daughter, she insisted she did not know what happened after her family yelled at her in Pashto. In the end, after the complaint notes that the officers tried to coax information, “the family kept saying they were safe and everything was okay.”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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