Feds open hate crimes investigation into Plainfield Township stabbings

The FBI, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office is conducting a hate crimes investigation into the slaying of a 6-year-old boy and the stabbing of his mother, which authorities said was done because of the victims’ Islamic faith.

In a statement Sunday, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said he was heartbroken by the “abhorrent killing” of Wadea Al-Fayoume, 6, who died after he was stabbed 26 times with a military-style knife.

Joseph Czuba, 71, has been charged with first-degree murder of the boy and the attempted murder of his mother, Hanaan Shahin. Czuba is accused of attacking both victims Saturday at a residence in Plainfield Township.

“On behalf of the entire Justice Department, I want to express my deepest condolences to his family and his community as they grieve his loss,” Garland said.

The investigation will involve the Chicago FBI Field Office, the civil rights division of the Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern Illinois District.

“Federal authorities continue to work closely with local officials from Will County Sheriff’s Office and Will County State’s Attorney’s Office,” FBI officials said in a statement.

The FBI is encouraging anyone with information regarding this incident – or other potential hate crimes – to contact the law enforcement agency at 1-800-CALL-FBI.

Joseph Czuba has been charged in the stabbing attack which took the life of a six-year-old boy on Oct. 14.

Garland said the slaying on Saturday “cannot help but further raise the fears of Muslim, Arab and Palestinian communities in our country with regard to hate-fueled violence.” He said he will use “every legal authority at our disposal to bring to justice those who perpetrate illegal acts of hate.”

The incident has drawn both a national and international response.

The Anti-Defamation League expressed disgust and horror at the child’s slaying. The organization expressed their condolences to the Muslim community and “categorically reject all anti-Muslim hate.”

U.S. President Joe Biden said the “horrific act of hate has no place in America and stands against our fundamental values: freedom from fear for how we pray, what we believe and who we are.”

“As Americans, we must come together and reject Islamophobia and all forms of bigotry and hatred. I have said repeatedly that I will not be silent in the face of hate. We must be unequivocal. There is no place in America for hate against anyone,” Biden said.

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker said the taking of the child’s life “in the name of bigotry is nothing short of evil.”

“Wadea should be heading to school in the morning. Instead, his parents will wake up without their son. This wasn’t just a murder – it was a hate crime. Every single Illinoisan – including Muslim, Jewish and Palestinian neighbors – deserves to live free from the threat of such evil,” Pritzker said.

More locally, Plainfield Village President John Argoudelis said the village condemns “every aspect of this hate crime. It does not represent the ideals of the Plainfield community.”

“We extend our deepest heartfelt condolences to the family for the loss of their loved one. As a community, we mourn the loss of such an innocent young life and stand together to support the family,” Argoudelis said.

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Joliet City Council member Suzanna Ibarra said it is “imperative that we come together to disavow such destructive actions.” She called for people to “rise above differences and conflicts, embracing empathy, understanding and dialogue as our guiding principles.”

She urged people to “cultivate an environment where every voice is heard and conflicts are resolved through peaceful means.”

“It is through cooperation, negotiation and compromise that we can build a harmonious world that benefits all,” Ibarra said.