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California, USA – Senseless death after senseless death rocks the Chaldean community. From news of loved ones murdered for their religion in Iraq, refugees able to escape the religious persecution are forced into subhuman conditions and feared dead, and in America as the economic toll of the country takes its course, Chaldeans remain especially vulnerable to robbery, mayhem, and murder.
For a culture with strong family relations, the devastation is catastrophic. “Chaldeans value their family relationships,” says Raymond Bahri, a Michigan social worker. “They tend to come from a large family and pull their resources together to survive. The family traditions and get-togethers like birthdays, communions, and graduations are widely celebrated as feasts.”
Perhaps that is why the pain of losing a loved one to a senseless murder over money is so devastating to the Chaldean community. “Something as priceless as the family relationship being ripped apart by murder is shocking,” adds Bahri. “It breaks my heart to learn of the murder.”
Authorities on Thursday announced rewards of up to $10,000 for information leading to an arrest in the 14-year-old slaying of a businessman during a liquor store robbery in southeast San Diego's Skyline neighborhood.
Thursday's announcement came on what would have been Sleiman "Pops" Hallak's 79th birthday. According to San Diego County Crime Stoppers, Hallak was shot to death on April 17, 1996 inside Moonlight Market, near the intersection of South Meadowbrook Drive and Skyline Drive.
Hallak, who owned the market, was behind the counter when a robber demanded cash, then fired several shots at Hallak before turning his weapon on another store employee. The gunman got away with an undisclosed sum of cash, authorities said.
Crime is skyrocketing as the economic outlook of the country continues to fall. “Local governments are choosing to layoff police instead of making the touch decisions of reducing other non-essential or non-security related services,” adds Bahri. “I guess these council officials feel they can convince the citizens to raise taxes if they feel unsafe and threatened. It may work, but they are toying with lives here.”
Chaldeans are especially at risk as small business owners remain the number one target of hardened criminals. States like Michigan and California are releasing convicted criminals back out onto the streets with little or no chance of making a living. This is causing these former felons with little to no alternative to robbing, stealing, and killing.
“Two years into our president’s administration and still we have double digit unemployment. When the economy is bad, criminals attack corner stores, markets, gas stations, and other small businesses, says Antisar Denha. “They know Chaldeans are killed in Iraq because they are Christians. They do nothing about it. Plus, they are deporting Chaldeans back to Iraq saying they don’t deserve asylum because Iraq is now free. This is a joke. I will never vote for him or his party again. His party is all talk, just to get elected. They are backstabbers.”
Chaldeans in California and Michigan struggle to convince authorities that store robberies and burglaries should be taken seriously. Most of the criminals are involved in gangs, deal drugs, and are connected to numerous criminal activities. In Michigan, Chaldeans in Detroit continue to complain about the lack of response by police. “It is a running joke in the Chaldean community that you can get a cop to come to your store faster if you offer them free pizza than you could by hitting the hold-up alarm,” jokes Bahri.
In California, Chaldeans have taken matters in their own hands by forming a Neighborhood Market Association that remains involved and engaged with local authorities. In the case of Sleiman Hallak the San Diego Crime Stoppers is only offering a $1,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest in the case. Meanwhile, the Hallak family and the Neighborhood Market Association are offering an additional $9,000 for information that leads to an arrest and conviction.
Tipsters can call Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477. Anonymous email and text messages can be sent via www.sdcrimestoppers.com.