It’s been nearly a year since Boise experienced one of the most shocking crimes in the city’s history. The mass stabbing on that final day in June left physical and mental wounds that have begun to heal. But for some in the refugee community, there’s still a lingering pain.
It was a perfect, sunny summer day last year when a quiet apartment complex off of State Street would become one of Boise’s most gruesome crime scenes.
“People were scattered across the apartment complex, both within apartments themselves, lying in the street and in the walkways,” said Boise Police Chief Bill Bones at a news conference the following day.
A 30-year-old homeless man named Timmy Kinner, who had a long and violent criminal record, had been staying with someone in the complex that week, prosecutors say. He was eventually kicked out.
The next day, he slashed his way through a child’s birthday party, according to police. The three-year-old birthday girl, Ruya Kadir, dressed as her own Disney princess, was surrounded by friends.
She later died from her wounds, while eight other children and adults were treated at local hospitals. Each of them were refugees.
“This was a brutal crime, not just against the individuals involved, but against the families and the very fabric of our community,” Bones said at the news conference.
Ruya’s mother, Bifituu Kadir, has since sued the owner and property manager of the apartment complex, Kinner, as well as the person who let him stay there. That suit is still ongoing, as is the criminal case against Kinner. He’s been deemed mentally unfit to stand trial — for now. He faces several felony counts, including first-degree murder. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
In April, a judge issued a gag order, forbidding any potential witness in the case from talking to the media.
Alwaleed Abdullah wasn’t at the Wylie Lane apartment complex that evening.
“I got a call from family and friends mentioning that there was an attack,” Abdullah said.
He works two night shift jobs – one as a caregiver and another as a supervisor for a janitorial company.
His family and friends told him fellow Iraqi refugees got hurt in the attack. Abdullah escaped violence in Baghdad just a few years ago. His aunt was murdered there.
“I felt really shocked because we didn’t expect such a thing to happen in Boise. [I consider] Boise as very safe,” he said.
When he left work the next morning, Abdullah took flowers to a makeshift memorial near the scene where firefighters were hosing off blood from the concrete.
Others joined him. Some taped signs to a rail overlooking the nearby canal. One said, “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor!” in three different languages.
All of this happened just two days before he and his now wife, Fatimah Abbood, were supposed to get married. They postponed the wedding out of respect for their friends recovering in the hospital, but celebrated with them all a couple months later.
Both of them joined hundreds of others in packing the streets around Boise City Hall a few days after the attack at a vigil to pray for the victims.
“It feels really good for us because they showed us that they do care about the refugees community and if such a thing happened the whole people are standing with us, which made it [less painful] for us,” Abdullah said.
Abbood says she eventually started to feel safe again. But these last few weeks have had her on edge. At night, she hears noises that trigger a panic and she calls her husband at work.
“I have to keep all the doors shut and even when it’s shut, I don’t feel safe here,” she said. “I feel like someone’s going to come and do something.”
Abbood says other members of the refugee community were worried about things others take for granted.
“They felt like really scared to go to the car and drive their car to work, so they let their daughter or son watch them go in the car and leave.”
Some even got to the point where they thought about moving away from the city entirely.
“They wanted to [leave]. They were thinking Boise’s not safe anymore,” she said.
“They were angry, maybe, or sad, but with time they knew they couldn’t find a better place than Boise,” Abdullah added.
Support groups responded immediately to the stabbing. Tamra Vanegas oversees Boise School District’s counseling and social work division.
“Many of those students were in summer school, so they did have access to school counselors and school social workers both and then the refugee agencies set up private, individual counseling for the families and the children,” Vanegas said.
A groundswell of local donations followed. The International Rescue Committee raised more than $445,000 in the months after the attack.
About a third of that has been spent on everyday expenses for the victims and adapting a new home for a family living with lingering physical problems.
The rest of the fund will be doled out based on the extent of injuries they suffered. A group of tax and trust lawyers are donating their time pro bono to help.
One family, according to the International Rescue Committee, hopes to set up a college fund for their child.
In the meantime, the refugee community and Boise at large will be remembering Ruya – the little girl who loved pink and purple flowers – as they did at a public memorial a week after her death.
"Her name in Turkish means dream and she came to us like a dream and she left as quickly as a dream."
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