Kyle Munson, USA Today, December 3, 2014
The murder of a Bosnian-American man by gruesome means–beaten with hammers at 1:15 a.m. Sunday on a street corner in St. Louis in front of his fiancee–has added yet another curveball to the national debate on race and violence centered in Missouri’s second-largest city.
The death has been labeled the “hammer slaying” in stark media shorthand.
The unfortunate soul behind the headlines was Zemir Begic, a 32-year-old carpenter, plumber, karate black belt and jack of all trades who got engaged to be married this year and moved to St. Louis less than four months ago. He was between jobs, and his fiancee has family in the city.
Begic (pronounced “Beg-itch”) was the oldest of four siblings and had lived in Waterloo.
His sister and two brothers are now in Sioux Falls, S.D., with their mother, Ferida Alagic.
“Justice for Zemir is all I want,” said youngest brother Rasim, 20, a pre-med student at the University of South Dakota. He returned to Waterloo this week at the home of his cousin, Asmir Begic, 34, as the family gathered to mourn amid their utter confusion.
Rasim has filled his Twitter feed with the #JusticeForZemir hashtag.
Meanwhile, a GoFundMe online campaign to help pay for Begic’s funeral has raised more than $32,000 from more than 500 donors based on a $15,000 request.
Police have described Begic’s death as a “wrong place, wrong time” attack in which four teens allegedly taunted him and coaxed him out of his car.
His fiancee, Arijana Mujkanovic, was unharmed, and so was Mujkanovic’s aunt and a friend.
The 17-year-old already charged with murder happens to be black. Two more teens have been held: a black 16-year-old and a Hispanic 15-year-old. Police have sought a fourth teen who allegedly participated.
St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay this week issued a statement to try to calm his city’s Bosnian community. About 300 people rallied in St. Louis’ Bevo Mill neighborhood Monday and reportedly chanted: “Bosnian lives matter!”
“Speculation that this attack had anything to do with the Ferguson protests is absolutely unfounded,” the mayor said.