The Washington Post

D.C. shooting claims a family’s American Dream

Jordanian driver is slain nine days before reunion with his wife, daughters


His dreams of economic security felt bigger than what he could achieve from his impoverish­ed neighborho­od in his home country of Jordan, so a year ago, Hamza Abu Halaoh left behind his wife and twin daughters to come to the United States, two of his relatives said.

He found a job as a driver in D.C., finally saving enough money for the one-way plane tickets that were supposed to reunite his family on March 21, the relatives said.

But nine days before his wife and daughters were set to join him, a shooting cut short their dream. Halaoh, 32, whose family also refers to him as Hamza Abu Halawa, was one of two people killed when someone opened fire on an SUV he had been hired to drive through Capitol Hill this week, the relatives said.

There was still little known about the circumstan­ces of the attack on Sunday. Police have said the shooter or shooters probably targeted the SUV, which they had followed in their own vehicle from another neighborho­od. Authoritie­s identified the other victim as Othaniel Gaither, a 34-year-old from Southeast Washington. Police declined to comment on Halaoh’s identity, which his cousin and sister-in-law confirmed to The Washington Post. Police also declined to say whether they believed Halaoh was targeted in particular, saying they were trying to contact his direct relatives.

Halaoh’s cousin and sister-inlaw contend that he did not know either passenger and was probably caught in the crossfire — killed while working for the dream they all shared.

“Most of us had a dream to travel to the United States for the freedom,” said Mahmoud Kamal Abu Halawa, his cousin. “But the American Dream now is that you’re not safe, that you could be killed and not know why.”

Halaoh’s wife, still in Jordan, has been hospitaliz­ed with grief, unable to utter a single word since she heard the news, according to Halawa. Their twin daughters, 21/

2 years old, have been playing with

their toys as usual because no one has told them about their dad, said Rayah Elayyan, Halaoh’s sister-in-law.

“He was the supporter of his family. He loved them so much,” Elayyan said. “He had big dreams in his mind, and now everything has crashed.”

Halaoh was born and raised in a part of Jordan that struggled with impoverish­ment, overcrowdi­ng and unemployme­nt, his family said. He found outlets in soccer and played for multiple successful teams, they said.

Around 2010, his cousin said Halaoh had grown tired of working hard as a driver in Jordan, with little hope that he could find a more lucrative job. He and Halawa started dreaming together of moving to America.

“Hey, cousin, let’s go to the United States. Let’s make our future with work and our dream,” Halawa recalled Halaoh saying to him.

A few years later, Halawa opted to move to Canada instead. After that, Halaoh fell in love with a woman, who at the time was living with her sister in Chicago, and married her. The woman, a U.S. citizen who had spent much of her youth in Jordan and has family there, went back to that country with Halaoh. Four years later, Halaoh moved to the United States.

In his nine months in the United States, Halaoh was fueled by the determinat­ion to reunite with his wife and daughters, Elayyan said. He arrived in Chicago in June and started working at a restaurant, before leaving that job when he learned he could make more money driving for hire, she said. He moved to D.C. in January after a friend contacted him with a driving job and a basement space where Halaoh could stay with discounted rent.

The driving job and the lower rent, Halaoh told Elayyan, would help him save up enough money to get his family to the United States by spring. He was almost there. He was looking for apartments big enough for four, Elayyan said.

Now Elayyan, who still lives in Chicago, is trying to figure out what to do with the one-way tickets.

“Everything is broken,” she said. “We cannot dream anymore.”

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