Two youths of Indian origin were stabbed multiple times in broad daylight in Fremont, California on November 17, while out buying cola. Both sustained serious injuries. One is out of danger, while the other underwent multiple surgeries and is on life support in ICU. The incident occurred late afternoon on Friday when three friends — all from Hyderabad in the south-central Indian state of Telangana — went to buy soft drinks from a shop at Fremont Hub, an outdoor shopping center in the city’s Central District.
In a press release shared with indica, Fremont Police spokesperson Kim Macdonald, said, “Officers obtained surveillance footage of the incident and interviewed multiple witnesses. They positively identified the suspect as Miguel Angel Villareal (28 years old, out of Fremont). Officers saturated the area and located Villareal several hours later after following up on several leads. Villareal was taken into custody without incident. Detectives from the Fremont PD Crimes Against Person(s) Unit responded to investigate.”
She said Villareal has a “lengthy criminal history, including an arrest for robbery, battery on a person inflicting serious bodily injury, resisting an officer, and related drug-related offenses.” The press release said, “Villareal’s motivation for this crime is currently unknown and still under investigation. Villareal was arrested for two counts of Penal Code 187(a)/664 – Attempted Murder. Villareal is set to be arraigned on November 22, 2023.”
Fremont Mayor Lily Mei told indica earlier, “We have apprehended the suspect. We are in an active investigation. we don’t have additional detailed information at this time.” She declined to elaborate whether this can be characterized as a hate crime. She indicated that the matter will be taken to the District Attorney’s office on Monday, November 20.
The victims’ families are in shock, but shared with indica the sequence of Friday’s events.
The attack took place close to Fremont Hub at 4:30 pm, when three friends — Syed Shadan ul Haq, Khalid Bin Masood Yafai, and Mohammad Abdul Basur Sufiyan — were heading to a local shop to buy a soft drink.
All three are friends from the Hyderabad region and are engineering students in the US.
One of the victims underwent at least two surgeries owing to the stab injuries. One of the injuries was close to his liver. Both victims are said to be out of danger.
Khalid and Shadan were stabbed while waiting for Sufiyan, who had gone to the shop to buy the colas. The three had met to spend the Friday evening together, but their plans went awry as the perpetrator suddenly attacked them with a knife.
Apart from Shadan, indica also spoke with the victims’ relatives, and an eyewitness who expressed shock and apprehension about the rise in such incidents in Fremont.
Shadan, 24, told indica in an exclusive interview: “We were headed towards the store where Sufiyan had gone to buy drinks. The perpetrator emerged from behind a wall and walked up to us normally. There was nothing to suggest that he was about to launch a frenzied attack. When he neared me, he suddenly punched and stabbed me. He didn’t say anything. We have often seen him loitering around the Fremont Hub. When I ran, he chased after me for some distance before turning to attack Masood. Fortunately, I was wearing a thick woollen jacket and that saved me from suffering a deeper stab wound. Police took my statement, and I described the perpetrator to them.”
As of Sunday night, Khalid (30) is still in the ICU, and his family and friends are waiting for him to regain consciousness. “I got a frantic call from my cousin about my brother being stabbed. When I reached the spot, I saw Khalid and Shadan lying on the floor, covered with blood. The paramedics were there. Luckily, they arrived on the scene within minutes, but by that time they had lost a lot of blood,” said Arfat Bin Masood Yafai, Khalid’s elder brother, while speaking exclusively to indica.
“Initially they said there were two deep wounds but when we went to the hospital, they said there were three wounds. The third one was close to the liver. For that, they performed a surgery at 7:30 pm to make sure nothing was wrong. At 10 pm, they came out of surgery and I checked on him, he was okay. I got a call from the hospital again at 03:30 am and they sought my consent for another surgery that went on till 6:30 am. They said that there was a problem with the third stab wound. Since then, he has been in the ICU, covered with tubes and hooked onto various machines. We are all very worried,” said Arfat.
He added, “I’ve been living in Fremont for the past eight years and never went through a situation like this. It has gone from good to worse in Fremont. There’s an increase in homelessness, and hate crime. We are afraid to walk on the streets. I keep telling my brothers and all his friends, not to venture out at night. I have made a rule that they should not leave the house after 9 pm. But then, this happened in the daytime at one of the busiest places in Fremont.”
Arfat said some of his other friends and roommates have been attacked, but they chose not to speak up. “My friends were attacked by people with guns and knives. There are many such examples. I never used to see anybody loitering here late in the night, but now I see armed homeless people walking past late in the night. Cars and car parts are being stolen regularly. Fremont has changed a lot.”
Arfat says the city officials are responsible for the rise in crime. “When we ask the cops, they don’t do much about it. The city officials should do their work, right? This problem has surfaced suddenly, which means some of them are slacking off and they need to be corrected. When I used to live in other places, I could see the police patrolling. But lately, I don’t see any patrolling. I see a lot of homeless people walking with weapons. How does a so-called homeless person walk around with a big, dangerous knife?”
Mohammad Abdul Basur Sufiyan, who saw the stabbing incident, told indica: “I was purchasing a drink from a store a short distance from the spot. Within a couple of minutes, I heard some cries and people running on the sidewalk. Initially, I ignored it as I thought some kids might be running. But the second time when I heard people running in panic, I went out and saw that my friend was seriously injured. He saw me, ran into the store, and collapsed. I saw the person who was chasing him, he saw the victim fall and ran away. I made the call to 911 and informed my friend’s brother.”
Sufiyan said he has often seen the perpetrator hanging around in that area of Fremont. “We usually see him here but never behaving in such a manner. He seemed to be alone when the incident occurred. We are all shocked by the violence and would not like to see this happening. Our families are waiting back in India with a lot of hope. If something worse happens, the parents will not be able to handle it.”
Muhammad Junaid Ali, Syed’s brother-in-law, said that he got a call from the victim who told him that he had been stabbed. “I was in Home Depot buying some stuff. I got a call from my brother-in-law and he told me that he had been stabbed by some random guy and he was in pain. Since I would require 20 minutes to reach the spot, I called my friends who live nearby and they rushed to the spot. By the time I reached there, they had already taken them to the hospital,” Ali told indica.
“We are in shock. Fremont used to be a safe place we had heard but now people walking by the road are also being attacked at random. It was quite fortunate that the injury was not life-threatening and he was wearing a thick jacket.”
“We rushed to the hospital and luckily both of them were out of danger. At that time, the police showed us some photographs and Sufiyan identified the suspect. The police told us that they had the suspect’s address and assured us that he would be arrested,” Ali said.
Ali says he has been living in Fremont for the past six years but he has never seen such an incident. “I never happened to see such cases around. This is very shocking and we are still in trauma that this happened to us. We used to hear that such things happen but now it happened to my brother-in-law. Thank God that he’s safe.”
Ali does not rule out the possibility of this being a hate crime. “Masood has a long beard and can be identified as a Muslim. The perpetrator may have attacked Khalid because he is a Muslim. But we are not sure because we were not at the scene. Khalid is unconscious now at this time, under medication, so he cannot speak. So we have to wait for his statement. I don’t know what was the motive behind the attack, but there must be something that triggered it.”
Syed said people converged on the spot quickly which scared the attacker and he ran away, otherwise, he might have stabbed them again.”