#JusticeforZemir: Family of Bosnian man killed in St. Louis claims it was a hate crime

#JusticeforZemir: Family of Bosnian man killed in St. Louis claims it was a hate crime



Published time: December 02, 2014 17:54

Scott Olson / Getty Images / AFP

Scott Olson / Getty Images / AFP


​Prosecutors in St. Louis, Missouri have filed murder charges in connection with the brutal death of a Bosnian man last week, but the victim’s family says authorities should consider conducting a hate crime probe as well.

Zemir Begic, 32, died early Sunday morning in a St. Louis
hospital hours after city attorneys say four teenagers beat him
following a brief altercation.

Begic was reportedly getting into his car with three others in
St. Louis’s Bevo Mill neighborhood at around 1:15 a.m. Sunday
morning when, according to prosecutors, four suspects started
yelling at the group. Begic drove off, but soon after one of the
suspects allegedly jumped on the back of his automobile and began
striking it. Begic then exited the vehicle and was attacked by
the teens.

The subsequent autopsy concluded that Begic was struck in the
head, face and abdomen with a blunt object by the assailants. Sam
Dotson, the chief of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police, told
Post-Dispatch reporter Joel Currier that the teens were equipped
with at least two hammers at the time of the slaying.

Three teens have so far been taken into custody in relation to
the killing, although only the oldest — Robert Mitchell, 17 — has
been charged as of Monday; he’s slated to be tried as an adult
and face charges of murder in the first degree and armed criminal
action — both felonies. Meanwhile, city officials have declined
to say whether or not the other two suspects in custody, ages 15
and 16, will face the same charges; a fourth suspect has been
identified but reportedly not yet detained.

Dotson, the chief of police, told the Post-Dispatch that there was “no
indication
” that the suspects — who are black and Hispanic —
targeted Begic because ethnicity.

“We think it was wrong place, wrong time,” police
spokeswoman Schron Jackson said.

Friends and family of the victim aren’t as certain, however, and
now the largest Bosnian community in the United States is reeling
in response to the tragedy while searching for an explanation.On
Sunday evening, around 50 people — mostly Bosnians, according to
the Post-Dispatch — attended protests in the Bevo Hill spot where
Begic was killed. On Monday, attendance at a similar vigil
totaled roughly 300.

“We’re just angry because we’re trying to protect our
community,”
29-year-old Mirza Nukic of St. Louis told the
paper. “We’re just trying to be peaceful.”

Amra Begic, a cousin of the victim, told the Associated Press that she believes the attack
was a hate crime.

“I don’t know if Missouri has the death penalty, but in this
case, an eye for an eye,”
she told the AP. “I think
that’s how everyone in the Bosnian community feels that at this
point.”

“I don’t know why this is happening to Bosnians,”
49-year-old Suad Nuranjkovic, a passenger in Begic’s car at the
time of the incident, added to the Post-Dispatch. “We could
go around and shoot people, too, but we just want peace.”

“I’m just lucky. God is on my side,” another passenger,
Seldin Dzananovic, told the paper. Dzananovic, 24, suffered only
minor cuts to his neck and hands, he told the paper.

Begic’s fiancé, Arijana Mujkanovic, was a passenger as well at
the time of the incident and witnessed her husband-to-be killed
in cold blood early Sunday morning.

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“The last thing he did before he actually died was pull me
out of the way and put himself in front of me, basically giving
up his life for me,”
Mujkanovic told KSDK.

According to The Atlantic, St. Louis boasted more Bosnians
per capita — around 70,000 in all — than any place outside of
Bosnia as of 2013. The AP reported that Begic moved to St. Louis
this year from Waterloo, Missouri, and had graduated high school
in Minnesota. Fox News reported that Begic and his family fled
Bosnia for the US in 1996 in the aftermath of a multiyear war and
lived in New York, Iowa and Arizona before settling in Minnesota,
then Missouri.

“He loved America,” the victim’s sister, 23-year-old
Denisa Begic of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. “We come from
Bosnia because we were getting killed and our homes and families
were getting destroyed. Never in my life did I think he would get
murdered.”

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