A family from Uzbekistan is trying to figure out why their husband and father was shot Friday night as he tried to buy gasoline in the same neighborhood where they run a small carryout restaurant.
Fazliddin Yakubov remained in critical condition Tuesday at MetroHealth Medical Center after he was shot three times in the stomach at a gasoline station at East 76th Street and Superior Avenue. One son who was with him was not injured.
FBI Special Agent Scott Wilson said the bureau is investigating and looking at the possibility that it could be a hate crime.
Some members of Greater Cleveland’s Muslim community are calling it a hate crime because five young men had been mocking the victim at the gas station while he was conversing with his son in their native Uzbek language.
“The evidence in this disturbing case points to a positive bias motive that should be investigated thoroughly,” said Julia Shearson, executive director of the Cleveland Chapter Council on American Islamic Relations.
Yakubov’s son, Farhad, said he was waiting in line to pay for the fuel when his father started yelling at him in his mother language to hurry up and also to be aware that young men behind him in the line were ridiculing him.
One of the youths cut in line and said “someone should do something about him,” referring to Fazliddin Yakubov.
Farhad said that as he stood in line, some of the youths came around from behind the gas station and one opened fire, shooting at his father as he stood by the car at the gas pump. He said as many as a dozen shots rang out, three hitting his father in the stomach, and four or five others hitting the car.
The son said he struggled to call 9-1-1, gave up and placed his father in the backseat, driving him to the Cleveland Clinic a few blocks away. From there he was flown to MetroHealth Medical Center.
The shooting continues to haunt and mystify the Yakubov family.
They’ve run the small restaurant for about a year but said they never had problems with anyone in the neighborhood.
A’isha Samad of the Inner-City Muslim Action Network, a social action group, said the Yakubovs exemplify the compassion of their Muslim faith, giving people food if they have no money.
They left their native Uzbekistan in 1998, Farhad Yakubov said, because of political differences with the regime. Both parents were college-educated, the father as a Russian-grammar teacher and the mother as an electrical engineer.
Farhad’s brother Shehraz Yakubov said the family “tried to find a home in any place that would take us,” and lived in many countries over the next two years. These included Iran, Pakistan and Turkey.
With the help and encouragement of the United Nations, the brothers said the family came to the United States eight years ago.
“They’re good people,” Samad said.
Community activist Khalid Samad, no relation, said Peace in the Hood, Black on Black Crime, Mothers Against Youth Violence and other groups are planning a rally at the gas station Friday at 5:30 p.m. to protest the apparently unprovoked attack.