White Texas Property Owner Avoids Arrest After Killing Moroccan Driver
A 65-year-old is being investigated as a murder suspect, but family of a slain Muslim man fear the worst.
When Adil Dghoughi left his girlfriend’s home in Maxwell, Texas, just after 3 a.m. on Oct. 11, she didn’t think anything of it. Sarah Todd told The Daily Beast the 31-year-old Moroccan native enjoyed late-night drives during which he would listen to music from his country, and sing.
“It was kind of a relaxation thing for him,” Todd told The Daily Beast.
But according to the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office, by 3:42 a.m. Dghoughi was being transferred to a hospital after he’d been shot by a white property owner named Terry Turner in Martindale, less than five miles away from Maxwell. The Sheriff’s Office said the shooting occurred after Turner confronted a “suspicious” car parked outside his home.
They also said Turner, 65, was “cooperative” and had not been arrested, despite Dghoughi later dying of his injuries.
It remains unclear if there was a significant confrontation or words spoken between Dghoughi and Turner before the shooting. It is also unclear if Turner felt threatened by Dghoughi, as an incident report provided to The Daily Beast redacted any narrative related to the shooting. But loved ones said the lack of an arrest in the case, despite police identifying a suspect, raised questions in a country with a long history of white people shooting people of color and claiming self-defense.
“We just want more information,” Brahim Mellouli, Dghoughi’s friend for over 15 years who knew him in both Morocco and during his time in the U.S. over the last decade, told The Daily Beast. “We just want justice for him.”
The Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office did not respond to a request for comment for this story beyond providing the incident report. Turner, who has not been charged with any crimes, also did not respond to a request for comment.
Loved ones of Dghoughi told The Daily Beast they believed he got lost during his drive, and perhaps was attempting to look for cell service in the small city of 1,000, which Todd claimed was known to have terrible reception. They also said it would be uncharacteristic of Dghoughi to be confrontational with anyone who might have demanded to know why he was on their property—if he was, and if such a demand was ever made.
“He would never look for trouble,” Mellouli, the friend, said. “He was a calm dude, very respectful.”
Although Todd told The Daily Beast that investigators initially told her the case seemed to be a self-defense situation, a heavily redacted Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office incident report obtained by The Daily Beast shows Turner is being investigated as a murder suspect. The Sheriff’s Office also said a search warrant had also been executed in connection with the case.
Amid the ongoing investigation, loved ones of Dghoughi and community leaders say that in a state like Texas, where Stand Your Ground laws are strong and often cited, they’re concerned Dghoughi’s death won’t be investigated thoroughly.
A spokeswoman for the Caldwell County District Attorney’s Office declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation.
According to the incident report, Turner called the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office to report the shooting of Dghoughi on Oct. 11. The report lists the motive for shooting Dghoughi as unknown, but said a handgun was used and that Dghoughi was driving an Audi sedan. Todd told The Daily Beast the car belongs to her. Although she was not there at the time of the shooting, she said her inspection of the car and what she’s heard from investigators and hospital personnel who attempted to treat Dghoughi before he died shortly after the shooting lead her to believe Turner “executed” her boyfriend.
According to Todd, investigators told her after the shooting that Dghoughi was sitting in Turner’s driveway, and that Turner feared Dghoughi might be trying to rob him. “The first words, pretty much, out of their mouths was that it was self-defense,” she said.
A photo of the car Dghoughi was driving that was shared with The Daily Beast shows what appear to be two bullet holes through the glass window on the driver’s side of the car. Todd said she believes the car windows are evidence that Dghoughi had his windows up before the shooting; she also believes it is proof that Dghoughi had not been trying to hit Turner with his car, and that Turner fired on Dghoughi at close range.
She said doctors who treated Dghoughi told her a bullet entered his hand, hit his head, and exited out the passenger window, which she believes suggests he may have had his hands up. A request for Dghoughi’s autopsy report was not immediately returned by the Travis County Medical Examiner’s Office, which describes itself as working with other jurisdictions, including Caldwell County.
Although Turner remains a murder suspect, Todd said, she worries about how Texas’ Stand Your Ground law—which allows deadly force to be used if someone believes it to be “immediately necessary” to stop another person from using deadly force, or from committing serious crimes such as kidnapping, murder, sexual assault, or robbery—may come into play. In Texas, deadly force is also allowed to protect land and property if someone believes it is necessary and will prevent arson, robbery, or “criminal mischief during the nighttime.”
Todd said she believes the law as written is far too broad, and could potentially shield a white homeowner like Turner. Some of the same issues are currently at play in the just-begun trial of three white men for killing Ahmaud Arbery, a Black jogger, in Georgia.
“There should be guidelines that should be followed to be a responsible gun owner,” she said. “You call the police, you stay inside. If the person breaks into your home, yes, you can use force.”
The incident report provided to The Daily Beast does not make clear if Dghoughi is alleged to have left his car before he was shot.
Todd also cited research by the Urban Institute that shows that in states with Stand Your Ground laws, a shooting of a white person by a Black person is ruled justified in 1 percent of cases, while a shooting of a Black person by a white person is ruled justified nearly 17 percent of the time. She told The Daily Beast that she fears Dghoughi’s case will tell white people “that they can shoot whoever they want, just for stepping on their property.”
“That is not OK,” she said.
Dghoughi came to the U.S. a decade ago and spent stints in Florida and Rhode Island, where he earned an MBA in finance, before moving to Texas nearly three years ago, according to Todd. She added that before his death, Dghoughi had been driving Uber to pay bills while applying to jobs in the finance world.
Mellouli, Dghoughi’s longtime friend, said Dghoughi was in positive spirits the last time they spoke and excited about interviews he had upcoming. “It’s tragic,” Mellouli told The Daily Beast.
Following the shooting, Mellouli helped the Dghoughi family in Morocco set up a GoFundMe account, which has raised over $27,000. Mellouli said part of the money would be used to send Dghoughi’s body back to his home country for a funeral. But he said the man’s family in Morocco also plans to use the money to hire a private investigator and an attorney to get more answers about what happened.
Meanwhile, it’s not just loved ones who are irate at the incident and the initial failure to carry out an arrest.
Faizan Syed, executive director of the Austin chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told The Daily Beast Dghoughi’s family has also reached out to his organization for advocacy help. Already, Syed said, they have made calls for an independent investigation to be conducted.
He, too, was alarmed that Turner remained free despite the shooting.
“We believe that is completely unacceptable,” Syed said.