A Charlotte Muslim mom said she feared for her life when a man pulled up to her car as she breastfed her baby at a northeast Charlotte shopping center this week, glared menacingly at her for several minutes and pulled out a long gun with the barrel pointed directly at her.
“Now I should get out of here,” the woman recalled thinking. She clutched her baby and walked as fast as she could through the parking lot to an Indian store beside a Big Lots for help. The man in the newer-model red pickup sped off.
The woman recounted the terrifying episode in an interview with the Observer on Wednesday evening, after the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights group called on police to investigate the case as a possible hate crime.
“We ask law enforcement authorities to use all resources available to apprehend the alleged perpetrator and to bring all appropriate charges, including that of ethnic intimidation,” said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations based in Washington, D.C.
The woman said she is a native of Pakistan who has lived in Charlotte for 11 years. She’d never encountered anything like what happened to her on Tuesday in the shopping center parking lot off University City Boulevard. She is in her early 30s, married with four children, she said.
She’d stopped at the shopping center for groceries at about 12:30 p.m., on the way home from a doctor’s visit with her son, who was born premature on Feb. 9.
She said the driver is a white man in his 40s or 50s, and bald. He wore a cap or hat. The driver never spoke to her as he glared at her before getting out of the pick up and getting the rifle from beneath the back seat, she said.
That’s when she decided to bolt.
“I’m not going to sit here and let him shoot me,” she remembers thinking. “I took my baby in my arms and rushed toward the store.”
She said he doesn’t know if the driver followed her into the parking lot or whether he first noticed her in her Muslim attire, including hijab and abaya, when she got out of her car to breastfeed her crying baby in the back seat before going for groceries.
The Indian store owner, responding officers and “complete strangers” in the parking lot came to her aid, she said. “They were all very comforting to me,” she said.
Police, she said, told her she did the right thing by heading away from the car and to the store. A police report of the incident was unavailable Wednesday. An officer at CMPD’s front desk said a supervisor needs to sign off on the report before it’s publicly released.
The woman said she’s well aware of attacks on Muslims from the news but thought a threat would never happen to her.
“I’m thanking God for giving me the chance to see my kids again,” she said.