SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — People in Central Illinois are on edge after a Chicago man was accused of killing a 6-year-old and attacking his mother due to the war between Israel and Hamas.
On Monday, dozens gathered in the Chicago suburbs for Wadea Al-Fayoume’s funeral. Officials said the young Palestinian-American boy was stabbed 26 times and later died, while his mother, Hanaan Shahin, was hospitalized from the attack. The FBI opened a federal investigation into Al-Fayoume’s death while law enforcement charged Joseph Czuba with murder and attempted murder. He also received two counts of hate crime.
Just days before the killing, Governor J.B. Pritzker announced that law enforcement agencies were on alert for threats related to places of worship due to the conflict. Some synagogues in Springfield have also taken steps to keep people safe, fearing attacks amid the war.
“We have upped our security. We are having couple more hours of security by our presence by our location, and a few other steps,” said Rabbi Mendy Turen of the Chabad Jewish Center of Springfield. “We’re not taking the approach of being afraid, or we are being cautious and adding extra security.”
One Palestinian and Muslim American said he appreciates the governor’s actions, but is still concerned. Khalil Qato lives in Springfield, but grew up not too far from where the incident happened in Plainfield Township.
“When I see Wadea’s face on the TV screen, I see myself 30-odd years ago,” Qato said. “And so I think we, as a community, are shaken by it. And I think, to some degree, a little bit frustrated that something like this could happen.”
“Shocking,” “heartbreaking,” and “devastating” are just some of the words Qato used to describe the death of the 6-year-old.
“I have small children. We’re members of the community, we’re involved in different things. And so for us, you know, we almost feel like we have a target on our back,” Qato said.
Pritzker and other elected officials, including President Joe Biden, condemned Czuba’s actions. The governor reminds everyone to be vigilant against hate crimes and possible acts of violence and terrorism.