‘IT’S LIKE SOME­ONE GRABBED MY SOUL’

The Buffalo News - - FRONT PAGE - By Maki Becker

Badraldeen “Badr” El­waseem was not quite 5 years old when his fa­ther brought him and the rest of his fam­ily from Ye­men to Buf­falo. The fa­ther, Adel El­waseem, wanted to give lit­tle Badr and his sib­lings a chance at a bet­ter life, far from the war and un­cer­tainty that gripped his na­tive coun­try.

“This is the most peace­ful coun­try in the world,” he would tell his fam­ily, his daugh­ter, Fa­tima, 14, re­called.

But not even the con­fines of their own home could shield the fam­ily from the gun vi­o­lence that plagues parts of ur­ban Amer­ica.

On the night of April 6, Badr was watch­ing the Car­toon Net­work on his liv­ing room TV when gun­shots rang out in the Towne Gar­dens Plaza park­ing lot, across a busy road­way from the El­waseems’ apart­ment on Wil­liam Street.

One of those bul­lets pierced a side win­dow and struck the boy in the head as he ran for safety, his fam­ily said.

His mother, Shukria, thought he was jok­ing at first when she saw Badr ly­ing on the ground. Then she saw the blood. She ran out of the apart­ment scream­ing for help.

Badr’s fa­ther held the dy­ing boy in his arms and wailed. He was still breath­ing. His heart was still beat­ing, Fa­tima said. She went out­side, cry­ing for some­one to call the po­lice and an am­bu­lance.

Badr was rushed to Oishei Chil­dren’s Hospi­tal, but by the time the fam­ily ar­rived at the emer­gency room, they were told that the bul­let wound was too deep and there was noth­ing doc­tors could do to save him. He was 12. Days after his death and his fu­neral, which drew hun­dreds of mourn­ers, Badr’s mother still hopes it was all a bad dream. She knows it’s not. “It’s like some­one grabbed my soul from the in­side,” the mother said, hold­ing her hand to her heart. Her niece, who shares the same name as her daugh­ter, Fa­tima El­waseem, trans­lated from Ara­bic for her.

On Fri­day, the mother was sur­rounded by loved ones at a rel­a­tive’s house out­side of Buf­falo. She wore head-to-toe black and sat curled up on a couch, her face etched with sor­row.

Her daugh­ter and niece tried to com­fort her, bring­ing her juice and food, and show­ing her pho­tos of Badr on their cell­phones. Some­times she smiled. But mostly, she cried.

A boy with big dreams

Badr’s older brother, Na­jmaldeen, 18, pointed out a video that Badr had posted to his YouTube chan­nel “Atomic Plays” a week be­fore his death.

It’s ti­tled “One Day i Will Get Rec­og­nized.”

He had about 500 fol­low­ers on his chan­nel, on which he posted videos of him­self play­ing the pop­u­lar video game “Fort­nite.” He wanted thou­sands, if not mil­lions, of fans.

“He al­ways wanted to be fa­mous,” his sis­ter said.

He dreamed of one day be­com­ing a suc­cess­ful en­trepreneur, and he wanted to be rich enough to buy him­self and his brother fancy cars and his mother a big, beau­ti­ful home.

“I want to be big,” he would tell his fam­ily. “I want peo­ple to know who I am.”

But he had deeper de­sires than that, his brother said.

“He wanted to be some­body that can help as many peo­ple as you can,” Naj said.

Badr, pro­nounced Bu-DAR, was quiet and smart, his fam­ily mem­bers said. He was sweet and car­ing, al­ways dot­ing on his baby brother, pro­tec­tive of his sis­ters and lov­ing to his par­ents and older brothers. He was ath­letic and ma­ture for his age.

“He car­ried him­self like he was older,” said his brother.

He was a sev­enth-grader at School 45 on the city’s West Side but was plan­ning to go to the Universal School, an Is­lamic school on Ge­ne­see Street, next school year.

Naj said his lit­tle brother seemed to ex­cel at ev­ery­thing he did, whether it was school work, ath­let­ics, video gam­ing or just be­ing a good per­son.

Ev­ery morn­ing, Badr would wake Naj up so that the two would do 50 pushups and say prayers. They’d do 50 more pushups ev­ery night.

“We pushed each other,” Naj said. “He would tell me, ‘I want to be just like you.’ I never told him I wanted to be like him . ... He was bet­ter-look­ing than me. Smarter than me. But I would never tell him that so that he would do bet­ter.”

April 6

On the evening of April 6, Shukria El­waseem was busy pre­par­ing a feast for the men of her fam­ily, Badr’s sis­ter and cousin ex­plained. An un­cle had been vis­it­ing from Cal­i­for­nia, and it was to be their fi­nal night to­gether. Badr’s mother had spent all day clean­ing the apart­ment and cook­ing tra­di­tional Ye­meni dishes – goat meat, rice, tea and sweets.

The men were go­ing to dine at the Wil­liam Street apart­ment while the women met at an­other house, the fam­ily said.

Badr was look­ing for­ward to the gath­er­ing and begged his mom to make him some­thing be­fore din­ner be­cause he was so hun­gry. She made Badr El­waseem with his baby brother, Waseem, about a week be­fore Badr’s death.

him an egg and cheese sand­wich, his sis­ter said.

“This is so good,” he told his mother. He al­ways com­pli­mented his mother’s cook­ing, his fam­ily said.

Badr took a shower to make sure he looked nice for the din­ner. He came out with­out a shirt and showed off his muscles, ask­ing his par­ents to feel his shoul­ders. Al­though he was 12 – a lit­tle less than two months away from his 13th birth­day – he was built like a teenager, of­ten shar­ing clothes with Naj.

At about 8:30 p.m., Badr’s mother was cook­ing in the kitchen. His sis­ter was in a bed­room. Badr was watch­ing TV, wait­ing for his brother to come with his un­cles from Ton­awanda.

Naj re­called they were all get­ting ready to go back to the Wil­liam Street apart­ment when his aunt said Naj’s mother had called and was scream­ing.

Naj had never known his mother to scream. He was in a panic. He thought per­haps some­one was sick. Or that there had been an ac­ci­dent.

He called his mother and fa­ther re­peat­edly, but no one was an­swer­ing their phones.

Naj called a friend who lives nearby and asked him to go check on his fam­ily. The neigh­bor soon called back. “I’m sorry,” he said. “Your brother was shot.”

“I couldn’t com­pre­hend the words,” Naj said.

He and his un­cles got into a car and started head­ing to Buf­falo. He said they were pulled over for speed­ing. Naj told them there was a fam­ily emer­gency, and he said it felt like hours as po­lice of­fi­cers checked out their story.

An of­fi­cer then told them that Badr had been shot in the head and that he was be­ing taken to Chil­dren’s Hospi­tal.

Naj said he ar­rived at the hospi­tal be­fore his par­ents could get there.

At the emer­gency room, he was told his brother was still alive and that doc­tors were go­ing to take scans of his brain to eval­u­ate his in­juries. They came back a cou­ple of min­utes later and said they would be­gin surgery.

“I was re­lieved,” Naj said. “I was pray­ing, ‘God, don’t take him away. Please give strength to my brother.’ ”

A few min­utes later, a doc­tor came out and asked Naj where his par­ents were.

“That didn’t seem like good news to me,” Naj re­mem­bered think­ing. “I asked him why.” The doc­tor ex­plained that the chances of Badr sur­viv­ing were ex­tremely low. That’s when his par­ents ar­rived.

“They told my mom, ‘You have five min­utes left with him,’ ” Naj said. His mother fainted. His fa­ther fell to the floor. Naj didn’t know what to do. He didn’t know who to go to.

The fam­ily was taken to Badr, who was ly­ing on a hospi­tal bed.

Naj said he went to his brother’s side and held his hand.

“I said I love him. ‘I wish they could have taken me in­stead of you. You don’t de­serve this. I love you so much.’ ”

Then he heard the mon­i­tor flat line. Badr’s mother col­lapsed again. Fa­tima kept talk­ing to Badr. “Let’s go home,” she told him, Naj re­called. “Let’s go play Fort­nite. Come on, Badr.”

Jus­tice for Badr

Badr’s fam­ily can’t bear to go back to their apart­ment now.

There’s a hole in the win­dow. The food is still laid out. A pile of teddy bears and bou­quets grows out­side their door.

They’re hop­ing to find a house away from the city.

Naj thinks some­day he’ll open a gym in his brother’s honor to give young peo­ple in the neigh­bor­hood a safe place to work out and hang out.

But right now, more than any­thing, the El­waseem fam­ily wants his killer to be caught.

A $12,500 re­ward has been of­fered for in­for­ma­tion lead­ing to the ar­rest or in­dict­ment of who­ever fired the gun that killed Badr.

“We need your help!” read a flier be­ing distributed through­out the neigh­bor­hood after the shoot­ing, urg­ing any­one with in­for­ma­tion to con­tact Crime Stop­pers Buf­falo at 716-867-6161.

Be­fore his brother’s body was wheeled away at the hospi­tal, Naj said he made a vow: “I prom­ise I’m go­ing to get jus­tice for you. I don’t care how long it takes, what it takes. What­ever I have to do I’m go­ing to get jus­tice for you.”

The out­pour­ing of sup­port from the com­mu­nity has been a com­fort to the fam­ily.

“I’ve never seen some­one touch as many peo­ple as Badr did,” his brother said. The fam­ily has got­ten mes­sages from around the world, he said. “Thank you for stand­ing with us on behalf of me and the El­waseem fam­ily,” Naj said.

Yet they can’t help but feel sad know­ing that it was a tragedy like this that has given Badr fame.

They just hope that means his killer will be found.

Naj pleaded: “I can’t have this be one of those sto­ries that fades away.”

Robert Kirkham/Buf­falo News

The me­mo­rial con­tin­ues to grow in front of the home on Wil­liam Street where Badraldeen El­waseem was killed by a stray bul­let while watch­ing TV. The rest of the fam­ily is now stay­ing with rel­a­tives.

Pro­vided by the El­waseem fam­ily

Robert Kirkham/Buf­falo News

Pro­vided by the El­waseem fam­ily

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