National News

Unease in Sacramento After a Suspected Islamic State Member’s Arrest

Posted August 17, 2018 9:37 a.m. EDT

The Eastern Villa Apartments are two rows of slate-gray buildings in a residential neighborhood on the outskirts of Sacramento. On Wednesday morning, residents awoke to their parking lot filling with black SUVs and FBI agents swarming toward the corner unit of the apartment complex. The heavily armed federal authorities, with help from the Sacramento Sheriff’s Office, arrested Omar Ameen, 45, an Iraqi citizen whom they accused of being a longtime member of al-Qaida and the Islamic State group.

“We were all looking and saying, ‘What is this?'” said Greg Hutson, 65, an Uber driver who was one of Ameen’s neighbors. “He didn’t do anything while he was here that hinted that he was part of a terrorist organization.”

Federal authorities accused Ameen of killing an Iraqi police officer in 2014 and then lying on his successful application for refugee status in the United States.

An Iraqi court in May issued an arrest warrant for Ameen. According to a summary of the case by the Justice Department, Ameen was in a convoy of Islamic State vehicles that entered Rawah, Iraq, in 2014. Ameen is accused of traveling to the house of an Iraqi police officer in Rawah, firing at him and then firing again when the officer was on the ground, killing him.

The Eastern Villa Apartments are home to around nine families from Iraq and Syria, according to a Syrian man who lives next door to Ameen and who gave his name as Abu Alla.

The Arabic-speaking families mostly kept to themselves, said Deborah Talbott, 52, a caregiver who lives across the way. In the evenings the Syrians and Iraqis drank coffee, waving to passing neighbors, she said.

Ameen lived with an extended family in his second-floor apartment, neighbors said. On Thursday, the air conditioner was running and flip-flops were arrayed outside, but no one answered the door.

The Eastern Villa Apartments are a multiethnic mix, like other complexes across California. But the FBI raid Wednesday has now sown suspicion among neighbors, Talbott said.

“It’s a little unnerving what happened yesterday,” she said of Ameen’s arrest.