CAIRO – A man wielding gun has threatened a Muslim couple saying they all should die with their kids, sparking fear and anger among the Muslim community in St. Louis, Missouri, over the unprecedented level of hate in their city.
“This state allows you to carry a gun and shoot you,” the man, identified as Leonard Debello, allegedly said, Huffington Post reported.
“You, your wife and your kids have to die.”
The incident occurred when Rabie and Marwah Ayoub say they were looking for a new home in St. Louis.
According to the Muslim couple, Debello asked the family if they were Muslim, shouted, “All of you should die,” before going inside his house to get a weapon and brandishing it at the couple.
An image obtained by local CBS affiliate News 4 appears to show Debello holding a gun while standing outside his home.
Police said the case was under investigation, taking no action against the man.
Debello later told News 4 he regretted the incident and had forgotten to take medication for PTSD that day.
The apology, however, was far from calming fears of the Muslim family who said they were afraid for their children’s safety as the family currently lives just a few blocks from Debello.
“He wasn’t sorry when he pulled the gun, he wasn’t thinking about it,” Ayoub said.
“He was ready to shoot. If he shot me, my wife or kids, what’s his apology going to do,” he added.
Muslims make up 1% of America’s 322 million population, according to Pew Research center.
The incident sparked angry condemnations from an American Muslim advocacy group which linked the incident to the hateful rhetoric spread by Republican presidential hopefuls.
Faizan Syed, executive director of the St. Louis chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations has called for the act to be prosecuted as a hate crime.
Syed added that the incident has stoked fear in the city’s Muslim community and prompted the local religious council to hold an emergency meeting.
“That’s the nature of hate crimes, they don’t just target one specific individual or family,” Syed said.
“The crime itself has implications for a group and the effects happen to everybody within our community.”
Syed blamed Republican presidential hopefuls’ rhetoric during the primaries for stoking Islamophobia.
He particularly cited businessman Donald Trump who has “definitely mainstreamed Islamophobia.”
“We now feel and we now see that it’s almost an OK reality to target Muslims, to bully Muslim kids,” Syed said, while noting this isn’t just about Islamophobia.
“In America there is an issue of greater acceptance of intolerance to other people.”
Republican presidential candidates, such as Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson have been accused of flaring anti-Muslim sentiments.
Trump’s views on immigration have sparked controversy nationwide, especially his proposal to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the US.