One week ago, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Stanley Vernon Majors murdered his next door neighbour, 37 year old Khalid Jabara. He shot Khalid dead on the front porch of the Jabara home. It was a horrific crime, but it could have been prevented. As I have reflected on the developments leading up to this murder, I have been both saddened and outraged, because while there is no doubt that Majors pulled the trigger, there are others who share varying degrees of culpability for this violent act.
Majors was a sick, hate-filled man who for the past four years created a nightmare for the Jabara family. Police records show that he had frequently taunted, stalked, and threatened members of the Jabara family, calling them “dirty Arabs,” “filthy Lebanese”, “Aye-rabs”, and “Mooslems”. He sent threatening emails and verbally threatened them with violence.
On two separate occasions, Khalid and his mother, Haifa, secured restraining orders prohibiting Majors from having any contact with them. In May of 2015, from police records, we learn that Majors had shouted at Haifa “F*** you, I want to kill you”. On September 12, 2015, an intoxicated Majors, struck Mrs. Jabara with his car while she was jogging and left her broken and bloodied body in the road as he fled the scene. He was later arrested and charged with assault and battery, hit and run, driving while intoxicated, and a violation of the court’s restraining order.
The state requested that Majors be held without bail, but the judge set bail at $60,000. At the end of May 2016, Majors posted bail and was released, once again taking up residence next door to the Jabara family.
Last Friday, Majors appeared at the window of the Jabara home waving a gun and making threats. The police were called. They arrived, knocked on Majors’ door and when he did not answer, they reported to Khalid that there was nothing more they could do. Eight minutes after the police left, Khalid went out of his home to retrieve his mail only to find Majors there. He shot Khalid four times leaving him to die.
Every account of this story I have read leaves me with a range of competing emotions. I am grief-stricken by the murder of a young man whose only fault was to be an Arab living next door to a person sick with hatred. I am pained both by the Jabara family’s loss and thoughts of the incredible nightmare of fear they have been forced to endure these past few years. I am furious at the failure of the criminal justice system, at all levels, for allowing this nightmare to continue and for the negligence that enabled it to come to this tragic end.
Majors was a violent felon. In 2012, while living in California, he was convicted of criminal threats and assault with a deadly weapon. The behaviour he displayed toward the Jabara family, after he moved to Tulsa, was a clear violation of his parole. That the police department didn’t act, early on, to deal with this obviously deranged and violent criminal is baffling and inexcusable. That such a low bail was set for a person with such a record and pattern of behaviour is inexcusable. And the fact that he was able to buy a gun and that the police would respond to the report of his brandishing a weapon in a threatening manner with the cavalier dismissal that “there was nothing that could be done” is absolutely maddening.
Added to all of this, is my outrage over the fact that Majors’ display of virulent anti-Arab animus was apparently dismissed, or viewed as incidental, by the authorities. Until this day, they refer to the murder as resulting from a “neighbourhood dispute”. Think, for a moment, how this situation would have played out if Majors had been an Arab or an African American and the Jabara family had been white. The early displays of hate would have been dealt with quite differently and/or Majors would have been sent back to California for parole violations. The protective order would have been enforced. The drunken driver who had threatened to kill his neighbor and then almost did in a hit and run assault would be in prison without bail. After he was reported to have been waving a gun, the police would have broken down his door to search for it and protection would have been provided to the much tormented family. And, oh yes, Donald Trump would be exploiting this case, ranting about our lax immigration system or our coddling of Arab or black criminals.
But the victims were from a Lebanese Arab immigrant family— and so this situation was left to fester.
Khalid’s sister, Victoria, in a powerful and poignant Facebook post, summed up the family’s feelings about this maddeningly avoidable tragedy.
“My family lived in fear of this man and his hatred for years. Yet in May, not even one year after he ran over our mother and despite our protests, he was released from jail with no conditions…
“The suspect had a history of bigotry against our family… [But his] bigotry was not isolated to us. He made xenophobic comments about many in our community – “filthy Mexicans” and the “n” word were all part of his hateful approach…
“This [case] is troubling at any time, but profoundly disturbing given the current climate of our country and the increase nationally in cases of hate crimes.
“Our brother Khalid was just 37 years old and had his whole life ahead of him. He was a kind and loving brother, uncle, and son. Khalid’s heart was big. He cared for our entire family, our friends, and people he didn’t even know…All of that has been taken from us by this hateful man and a system that failed to protect our community.”
Nothing will bring back Khalid, and nothing can ease the pain of loss endured by the Jabara family. Majors must pay for his crime. But that is not enough. There must be accountability in Tulsa for the negligence of the authorities. And we must work together as a nation to demand zero tolerance for those who feed the hate that emboldens sick minds to commit murder.