California police are investigating a possible hate crime in connection with the death of an Iraqi woman who was beaten unconscious on Wednesday. 

Shaima Alawadi was found next to a  threatening note saying "go back to your country." 


A family friend described Shaima Alawadi as a respectful modest muhajiba, meaning she wore the traditional hijab, a head scarf like the one pictured above. (Spencer Green/Associated Press)

Hanif Mohebi, the director of the San Diego chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said Alawadi was taken off life support Saturday afternoon.

"The family is in shock at the moment. They're still trying to deal with what happened," said Mohebi, who met with family members.

Alawadi, a 32-year-old mother of five, had been hospitalized since her daughter, 17, found her unconscious in the dining room of the family's suburban San Diego house on Wednesday, police Lt. Steve Shakowski said.

"A hate crime is one of the possibilities, and we will be looking at that," Lt. Mark Coit said. "We don't want to focus on only one issue and miss something else."

"You took my mother away from me. You took my best friend away from me. Why? Why did you do it?"  —Shaima Alawadi's daughter Fatima Al Himidi

Fatima Al Himidi, told KUSI-TV her mother had been beaten on the head repeatedly with a tire iron, and that the note said "go back to your country, you terrorist."

Addressing the camera, the tearful daughter asked: "You took my mother away from me. You took my best friend away from me. Why? Why did you do it?"

Police said the family had found a similar note earlier this month but did not report it to authorities. Al Himidi told KGTV-TV her mother dismissed the first note, found outside the home, as a child's prank.

Alawadi's two sons and three daughters range in age from 8 to 17.

Family was new to the neighbourhood

A family friend, Sura Alzaidy, told UT San Diego that the attack apparently occurred after the father took the younger children to school.

Alzaidy told the newspaper the family is from Iraq, and that Alawadi is a "respectful modest muhajiba," meaning she wears the traditional hijab, a head scarf. The family had lived in the house in El Cajon, Calif., for only a few weeks, after moving from Michigan, Alzaidy said. 

She told the newspaper her father and Alawadi's husband had previously worked together in San Diego as private contractors for the U.S. Army, serving as cultural advisers to train soldiers who were going to be deployed to the Middle East.

Mohebi said the family had been in the United States since the mid-1990s. He said it was unfortunate that the family didn't report the initial threatening note.

"Our community does face a lot of discriminatory, hate incidents and don't always report them," Mohebi said. "They should take these threats seriously and definitely call local law enforcement."

El Cajon, northeast of downtown San Diego, is home to some 40,000 Iraqi immigrants, the second largest such community in the U.S. after Detroit.