An Illinois landlord accused of fatally stabbing a 6-year-old Muslim boy and seriously wounding his mother was charged with a hate crime after police and relatives said he singled out the victims because of their faith and as a response to the war between Israel and Hamas.
In recent days, police in U.S. cities and federal authorities have been on high alert for violence driven by antisemitic or Islamophobic sentiments. FBI officials, along with Jewish and Muslim groups, have reported an increase of hateful and threatening rhetoric.
In the Chicago-area case, officers found the 32-year-old woman and boy late Saturday morning at a home in an unincorporated area of Plainfield Township, about 40 miles (65 kilometers) southwest of Chicago, the Will County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement on social media.
Relatives and a Muslim civil liberties and advocacy group identified the slain boy as the wounded woman’s son.
The boy was pronounced dead at a hospital. The woman had multiple stab wounds and was expected to survive, according to the statement. An autopsy on the child showed he had been stabbed dozens of times.
“Detectives were able to determine that both victims in this brutal attack were targeted by the suspect due to them being Muslim and the on-going Middle Eastern conflict involving Hamas and the Israelis,” the sheriff’s statement said.
According to the Will County sheriff’s office, the woman had called 911 to report that her landlord had attacked her with a knife, adding she then ran into a bathroom and continued to fight him off.
The man suspected in the attack was found Saturday outside the home and “sitting upright outside on the ground near the driveway of the residence” with a cut on his forehead, authorities said.