Mahir Ahmad Amiri is in a room at Baylor University Medical Center. He has been there since the end of last year, after he was shot five times while working along a dangerous stretch of Far East Dallas. Until recently he could breathe only with the help of a ventilator. His 28-year-old wife Zahra says her husband does not know why he is in the hospital.
Mahir was born 32 years ago in Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital. For eight of those years, he risked his life as a translator for the U.S. military. Then he brought his wife and family to the U.S., believing he would be safe here.
Today he cannot move from his neck down, cannot hold the three young children who come see him at the hospital and will likely never walk again.
“Heartbreaking,” said Mahir’s wife. “Heartbreaking,” said his 53-year-old father Shir, a tailor from Kabul. They spoke through a translator, but they didn’t need to at that moment. The devastation was plain on their faces.
Mahir Amiri is the security guard who was shot five days before Christmas at that Texaco on Ferguson Road and Interstate 635, which Dallas City Hall now says is “a hub for drug use and sales and related violent crime” and hopes to clean up or shut down. This newspaper has twice mentioned the shooting, last year and again last week.
Until now, his story has been just one more awful anonymous anecdote thrown into the pile of horror stories to come from that intersection and that gas station, whose owners blame the cops for not controlling crime.
Attorney Charles Bennett emailed Monday morning to share Mahir’s story and to invite me to his office to speak with his wife and parents, Shir and Farzana Amiri. The couple had to beg U.S. Rep. Collin Allred, D-Dallas, to help them come see their son. Bennett referred to Mahir as his “client,” and made it clear that sooner than later, he will sue someone over the shooting.
Perhaps he will sue Agile Security for sending and resending Mahir to a place where he had been threatened repeatedly in the days before the shooting. Or, maybe, the Texaco’s owner. Or, possibly, the city and the police for not cleaning up an intersection plagued by crime for as long as its residents can recall.
Or all of them. Because why not. There’s blame enough to go around for a mess that existed long before the city decided to file its nuisance lawsuit.
Meanwhile, the man who pulled the trigger, the man most responsible, remains unidentified, unpunished.
When I asked Bennett why he sent the email about Mahir, he said “it’s important people know his story.”
“People should see it’s happening to people from outside the neighborhood,” he said.
Mahir and Zahra moved to Texas a little more than three years ago, using the Special Immigrant Visas approved for Iraqi and Afghan translators whose lives were threatened by countrymen who called them traitors. They came to Texas with two little girls: Zianib, who is now 8, and Nada, who is 6. Zianib has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy; she is a quiet girl who will occasionally hit herself in the head.
First, the family moved to Austin; then, to Bedford. Two years ago, they had a boy named Hussein.
At first Mahir worked for a mobile phone company. Then, he had a mild heart attack and wound up in the hospital. Later, his wife said, he found work at security companies; his Facebook page lists a handful. And, for a time, they were happy here.
“Extremely happy to come to the United States, and to have a safe environment for his kids,” said his wife. Through the translator she explained that their main concern was for Zianib; the family believed they could get help for her in Texas that was not available in Afghanistan.
Now, it is Mahir who needs help.
In hindsight it’s easy to say Mahir never should have been at the Texaco the day he was shot. Police reports filed in the days before the shooting suggest the violence that occurred on that unseasonably warm Thursday night was inevitable.
Around 9:45 p.m. on Dec. 14, Mahir was working at the Texaco when, the police report says, he walked up to a man selling drugs and told him to stop. The man was in his early 30s, says the report. Police said the man threatened the guard, telling him, first, “I’m gonna kick your ass.” Then, “I’m gonna kill you.”
Cops were called a little after 10 p.m., according to the report. But they didn’t show till around midnight, at which point the suspect ran off.
Five days later, says another police report, Mahir watched a drug deal go down early in the evening, around 6:45. Mahir told the man to leave.
“Your turn is coming,” the dealer said, per the report. “I got a gun, and I am going to shoot you and kill you.”
Around 10 p.m. Dec. 20, Mahir was peeking inside a customer’s RAV4 when a young man — witnesses told police he appeared to be around 19 or 20 — walked up behind the security guard and shot him five times.
I called Agile Security to ask why Mahir was sent back to the Texaco; I hit a message that said voicemail was full. I also phoned Abdullah Mahmood, who manages the Texaco, to ask about that night. He said only that Mahir “was doing a great job — that’s why they threatened him.”
Mahmood put me on the phone with a man named Corey Crane, owner of Grand Prairie-based Texas Protection Services, which now provides security at the Texaco.
“If you haven’t been threatened with your life out here,” he said, “you’re not doing your job.”
Zahra said her husband thought the police would protect him.
“That’s why he continued to work there.” Later, she added: “And, of course, we needed the money.”
Three years ago, Shir and his wife Farzana thought it was good news that their son was moving to the U.S.
“[We] had great hope,” said Mahir’s father. “My son and grandchildren are safe.”
But now his boy lies in a hospital room, unable to move. Not in a war zone. In Dallas. Dallas. And the 6-year-old girl Nada, the only child who knows what has happened to Mahir, will sometimes sit and stare out a window and cry, her mother says.
At the informal news conference, Farzana sat next to her husband, silent, clutching a Kleenex. A few times, she raised her hand to cover her face soaked in tears. Her son was not safer here after all.
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