Somali father killed in quest for safe haven

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Shueyb Abukar left a war-torn country for one he thought would be safe. Safe to live. Safe to work. Safe to raise a family or go to dinner on a Friday night.

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Shueyb Abukar left New York for what should have been the relative safety of Ohio

Now, his family is left to wonder how Abukar could cross thousands of miles, leaving Somalia for New York and then New York for Columbus, but not avoid the danger of a man with a gun.

Abukar was shot and killed in an apparent robbery outside a Columbus, Ohio restaurant while his wife and six children stood by last Friday evening. Police are looking for the shooter and the getaway driver who helped him flee the city’s crowded commercial area.

“We know that this life, you only have a short period,” said Mohamad Abdi, an uncle from Maryland. “The way it ended is devastating to all of us.”

Family and friends who gathered on Saturday from across the country to bury Abukar said he was a hard worker who loved his family. They recalled late-night phone calls while he cared for a coughing child and how he did his best to work the day shift shuttling passengers from the airport in his cab so he could spend time with his family at night.

They said he made his permanent move to Columbus only a few years ago, leaving behind jobs as a translator and at a bank in New York City for the relative safety and affordability of central Ohio, where he bought a home for his family. This is where he wanted to raise his family and earn a living. He fled Somalia for the U.S. about 15 years ago, said Mohamud Abukar, his brother.

“He left this place because he thought he was coming to a safe place to raise a family,” Abdi said.

Even the family‘s restaurant choice on Friday evening was supposed to be safe. Family members said Abukar’s three daughters and three sons, all 9 or younger, loved the Golden Corral restaurant because they could choose whatever they wanted to eat. And the area isn’t known for high crime.

“It’s a family night out that went wrong,” said Fuad Mo, his brother-in-law.

Police say a man wearing an Ohio State hoodie and pyjama bottoms with the Ohio State University insignia approached Abukar and his family outside the restaurant around 6:30 p.m. Friday. After the man demanded Abukar’s wallet, he shot him twice and fled in a tan four-door saloon. Police are looking for the shooter and the person who drove the getaway vehicle. No arrests had been made as of Saturday evening.

Family members said they can forgive the people responsible for Abukar’s death. That’s part of their Muslim faith. But they still want them brought to justice, Abdi said. The Muslim community is raising funds to put up a reward for the arrest of those responsible for Abukar’s death.

“We’ll do everything we can to help (police) resolve this issue so it doesn’t happen to anyone else,” he said. “It’s very, very, very disturbing.”