Representatives of Lexington's Muslim community and relatives of Salahuddin Jitmoud, who was stabbed to death at the Walnut Hill Apartments on Sunday night, met with Mayor Jim Gray and other officials Friday to emphasize the need for an aggressive investigation.
They came away reassured, at least for now, that authorities are pushing ahead to find the killer or killers, said Dr. Jamil Farooqi, a former president of the Islamic Society of Central Kentucky.
Lexington police Chief Mark Barnard and Fayette Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Larson attended the meeting, city spokeswoman Susan Straub said. It lasted about two hours, according to Farooqi, who also was there.
"The family was assured that the case is being actively and thoroughly investigated, and that everything possible is being done," Straub said. "We told family members that police haven't uncovered evidence of a hate crime, so far. But, as the investigation continues, police remain mindful of the possibility."
Some Muslim community members previously raised concerns that Jitmoud might have been targeted because of his faith or other reasons.
After Friday's meeting, the Jitmoud family "felt satisfied with the way it (the investigation) has been approached," Farooqi said.
"The community's concerns also were expressed from our side, as to how distressed people are at seeing one of their youths murdered this way," he said. "But it looks like they (city officials) are taking this very seriously, so ultimately the family seems satisfied and would like to continue contact with the authorities."
Farooqi acknowledged, however, that concerns had been growing because no arrests have been made in five days, and Jitmoud family members had not heard what was happening.
Lexington's Universal Academy, a Muslim school Jitmoud's father once led, sent out an e-mail after Friday's meeting saying "we are confident that the police are taking this matter very seriously and are doing everything they can to make sure the perpetrators of this horrendous murder will be brought to justice."
Jitmoud family members and Muslim community members had planned to hold a press conference after Friday's meeting, but the family decided to cancel it before the meeting actually began, according to Farooqi.
Salahuddin Jitmoud worked for Pizza Hut and was making deliveries when he was killed, police have said. The job helped pay for his artistic pursuits in film and music.
For its part, Pizza Hut issued a statement Friday, saying it is cooperating with police "in hopes they find those responsible for this unthinkable tragedy as quickly as possible."
Lexington police investigations Cmdr. David Lyons could not comment on specifics about the case in a separate interview Friday, but he described homicide investigations in general. He stressed that investigators conduct all homicide investigations with equal vigor, regardless of the circumstances of the cases or the backgrounds of the victims, even when victims might have been involved in crimes themselves.
"We treat them and their families the same way we do any other families," he said. "Every case gets the same effort, the same push."
Lyons pointed out, however, that every case is different. Some are solved quickly, but others take time, he said.
Less than 48 hours before Jitmoud was killed, University of Kentucky student Jonathan Krueger, 22, was fatally shot early Friday on East Maxwell Street near campus, and police had two suspects in custody the same day. They arrested a third four days later.
When Joseph Ramone Parker, 30, was found dying of gunshot wounds outside of an apartment building last Dec. 18, police obtained a murder warrant for Jevon Donnell Magee the next day. However, Magee wasn't apprehended until Thursday night.
In general, Lyons said, fast arrests occur in homicide cases in which cooperative witnesses and evidence are readily available.
"If you have a case where witnesses are standing there when the crime happened, and police are able to get there quickly, the likelihood of advancing that case quickly is very good."
But cases in which the victims, witnesses or some evidence are not found immediately can take longer, he said.
Homicide detectives work brutal hours when homicides occur, grabbing naps at the office, running home for showers, then rushing back to the job at hand, Lyons said.
"The whole time they have to do it right," Lyons said. "They can't rush; they can't cut corners; they can't go out on wild theories."
Ishan Bagby, who teaches Islamic studies and Arabic at UK, said there is a strong desire in the Muslim community to see the investigation "done carefully and thoroughly and properly," he said. "I must say I think both the mayor and the chief of police have done a good job in reassuring the Muslim community and the family that they are taking it seriously."