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Police investigate gun incident that victim calls hate crime

Civil liberties group calls on city officials

COLUMBIA, Mo. - The Columbia Police Department is investigating a reported incident involving a man with a gun that the victim says could be a hate crime.

According to the Missouri chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MO), the victim, a Muslim woman who wears a hijab, was driving on Providence Road on Monday night when a man pulled up next to her and made an obscene gesture. When the victim, Heba Jassim, asked the driver if he was threatening her, the man allegedly pulled out a gun and pointed it at her.

CAIR-MO said that Jassim had two children in her car at the time of the incident. As Jassim called police, the man sped away.

"We believe that what started out as road rage incident quickly escalated to a possible hate crime, as the man seemed to only target her after he saw that she wore the hijab," said Faizan Syed, executive director of CAIR-MO. "We call on city officials and the police department to investigate the case thoroughly and to see if a hate crime has occurred."

Interim police Chief Geoff Jones said the department will investigate, starting with the statement provided by the victim. 

"At this point, we will consider all motives," Jones said. "I am reluctant to share any details of the investigation. I don't want to jeopardize the integrity of the investigation. 

Jones said the incident was reported as a law violation and has been reassigned to an investigator. Jones said the safety of the community is a priority.

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