Advertisement
  1. News

Man fatally shot outside Ramadan gathering had just become U.S. citizen, friend says

Rafat Saeed, 36, was fatally shot early Monday outside of the Islamic Society of Tampa Bay Mosque on 7326 E Sligh Ave. in Tampa. [Facebook]
Published May 20

TAMPA — A Ramadan gathering at a Tampa mosque ended in chaos early Monday when one man fatally shot another during an argument, deputies said.

The victim, 36-year-old Rafat Saeed, is from Iraq and became a U.S. citizen last week, a friend said.

The shooting happened in a crowded parking lot of the Islamic Society of Tampa Bay, 7326 E Sligh Ave., shortly after midnight as congregants were wrapping up the event, Hillsborough County Sheriff's Major Frank Losat said at a morning news conference.

An off-duty sheriff's deputy working a security detail heard gunshots in the parking lot and saw many of the several hundred congregants still running away from the scene, Losat said. When the deputy arrived, he found a man holding a gun and another with at least two gunshot wounds.

Saeed was later pronounced dead at Tampa General Hospital.

The shooter cooperated with the deputy's commands to turn over the gun and was detained, Losat said. No charges have been filed. "From preliminary information, we understand that the shooter and the victim do know each other to some degree, an argument did ensue and shots were fired at some point during that altercation, Losat said.

Losat did not know whether the shooter was claiming he acted in self-defense.

The shooting happened after the special nightly prayer called Tarawih, held during the month of Ramadan and ending around 11:30 p.m., said Shari Akram with the Islamic Society of Tampa Bay. The two men had worked as volunteers at the mosque, Akram said, but the shooting was "a personal dispute that happened to take place outside of our parking lot."

The Sheriff's Office did not release either man's name, but the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner's Office confirmed Saeed's identity to the Tampa Bay Times based on his date of birth.

A friend of Saeed's, Hatem Naji, said Saeed came from Iraq to the United States to escape his war-torn country. He had lived in Tampa for about 10 years, said Naji, 46, of Temple Terrace.

"He's loved by the whole community. He helped everyone," Naji said. "A very humble man, very giving, very caring."

Saeed was married and was helping raise his wife's two daughters, 15 and 12, from a previous marriage, Naji said.

"He was raising them like his own," he said. "When he's not working, he's spending time with his wife and the girls."

Naji said Saeed worked as a truck driver and a handyman and had rearranged his schedule so he could work at night to accommodate the tradition of abstaining from food and drink from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan. When Naji last saw Saeed on Sunday night at Naji's office, Saeed said he was heading home to eat. He apparently made a stop at the Islamic Society.

Saeed became a U.S. citizen last week and got his passport so he could visit his parents in Turkey for the first time since the family fled Iraq as refugees.

"He ran away from killing, and got killed," Naji said.

Funeral prayer for Saeed was scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Islamic Community of Tampa, 5910 E 130th Ave.

Contact Tony Marrero at tmarrero@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3374. Follow @tmarrerotimes.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Joshua Michael Nichols, 21, was arrested by Pasco County Sheriff's deputies on Saturday in connection to the early morning shooting death of an unidentified man during an argument outside a Spring Hill home. [Pasco County Sheriff's Office] ANASTASIA DAWSON  |  Pasco County Sheriff's Office
    One person is in custody. The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office is investigating.
  2. Yesterday• Pasco
    Dr. Rao Musunuru, MD, received his third “Paul Harris Award.” the highest recognition from the Rotary Club, on Aug. 15. The pin was presented to Dr. Musunuru, a nationally-recognized cardiologist, by Rotary 6950 District Governor Allen Collins in recognition of his humanitarian and philanthropic services to the people of Pasco County and the State of Florida for nearly 40 years. Pictured: Dr. Rao Musunuru, MD, (left) and Rotary 6950 District Governor Allen Collins. Jemith Rosa/Hudson Rotary Club
    News and notes about your neighbors
  3. A Lancaster County Sheriff's deputy walks around the Old Skool Sports Bar and Grill, the scene of a shooting early in the morning, north of Lancaster, S.C. on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019.  Lancaster County Sherriff's Office said in a statement that the agency was investigating a fatal shooting that also injured several people.  (Jessica Holdman/The Post And Courier via AP) JESSICA HOLDMAN  |  AP
    Two adult males were shot and killed.
  4. Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg, right, listens to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, left, during the Youth Climate Summit at United Nations headquarters, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019.  (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez) EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ  |  AP
    Swedish 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg started the climate strike movement with her lone protest in front of her country’s parliament.
  5. Stay with tampabay.com for the latest news and updates. Times
    She was not in a crosswalk when she was hit, troopers say.
  6. Vice President Mike Pence reacts during an immigration and naturalization ceremony in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House grounds, Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) ALEX BRANDON  |  AP
    Katie Waldman, a former University of Florida student senator, was accused of helping discard independent student newspapers with a front-page endorsement of a rival party’s candidate. | Analysis
  7. Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and updates. JAMAL THALJI  |  Tampa Bay Times
    John Clark used a shotgun to kill his mother and another man. Then he returned to the crime scene with a shotgun, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.
  8. Sandra Gero, a regional search associate at Ray and Associates, hosts a meeting at the Middleton High School auditorium and gathers public comments on what people are looking for for the next Hillsborough County School Superintendent on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019 in Tampa. LUIS SANTANA  |  Times
    Using public meetings and a survey, they’re painting a picture of the ideal school leader.
  9. The main exhibit center at the Museum of Science & Industry in Tampa once stirred the imagination with dinosaurs and stars. Now, it's empty, but on the verge of rebirth as a movie studio.
    The County Commission has set aside $2 million for the project as the Film Commission studies the demand for it.
  10. President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in the East Room of the White House, Friday, Sept. 20, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) PATRICK SEMANSKY  |  AP
    Hunter Biden worked for a Ukrainian gas company.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement