It’s very hard to know where to begin with the murder of Khalid Jabara, whose story is one of the most devastating and infuriating accounts of systemic failures in the legal system you are likely to read about. That’s the takeaway from a harrowing telling of Jabara’s death published in the Washington Post on Tuesday.
Jabara’s family had allegedly been stalked for years by Vernon Majors, who had described them at one point to police as “filthy Lebanese.” According to a police report described by the Post, Majors confessed last year to nearly killing Jabara’s mother in a horrifying hit-and-run. After initially being denied bail for assault and battery with a deadly weapon among other crimes and spending eight months in jail, District Judge William LaFortune reversed that decision and allowed Majors to be released on bond in May. On Friday, Jabara called police to inform them that he had heard Majors had acquired a gun—as part of a restraining order Jabara’s mother had taken out on Majors, which he had been charged with violating, the 61-year-old was not allowed to possess firearms. The police told Jabara that there was nothing they could do and left his home. Eight minutes later, according to the account Tulsa Police Homicide Sgt. Dave Walker gave the Post, neighbors reported hearing gunshots. Majors had allegedly shot and killed Jabara on his front porch while the 37-year-old was on his cellphone with his family and getting the mail. “When one neighbor screamed at Majors to leave, he pointed his gun at the neighbor before fleeing in his bare feet, leaving footprints in blood and then mud between the two houses,” according to the Post’s telling of the police account. Majors was found hiding behind a tree, arrested with a six pack of beer nearby, taken to the hospital for illness, and police say he will be charged with first-degree murder as soon as he can leave the hospital.
“The Constitution allows for people to bond out,” Walker told the Post of the failures that led to Jabara’s death. “That said, certainly, knowing what we know today, decisions would be made differently.”
Victoria Jabara Williams, Jabara’s sister, described on Facebook the period leading up to her brother’s murder:
This suspect had a history of bigotry against our family. He repeatedly attacked our ethnicity and perceived religion, making racist comments. He often called us “dirty Arabs,” “filthy Lebanese,” “Aye-rabs,” and “Mooslems”—a fact highlighted by the Tulsa Police Department who also heard these comments from the suspect. The suspect’s bigotry was not isolated to us alone. He made xenophobic comments about many in our community – “filthy Mexican” and the “n” word were all part of his hateful approach to anyone from a different background.
This [case] is troubling at any time, but profoundly disturbing given the current climate of our country and the increase nationally in cases of hate crimes.
Our brother Khalid was just 37 years old and had his whole life ahead of him. He was a kind spirit, loving brother, uncle and son. Khalid’s heart was big. He cared for our entire family, our friends and people he didn’t even know. He created every Jabara family joke and filled our lives with love and laughter. All of that has been taken away from us by this hateful man and a system that failed to protect our community.
Another of Khalid’s siblings, Rami Jabara, posted this on Facebook about his brother:
While one cannot explain irrationality and evil, one thing I can explain is that indifference and inaction were major factors leading to Khalid’s death. As an attorney, I have seen the system fail defendants, but it also seems to fail the victims just as much or perhaps more. I feel like my family lost, my community lost. My brother lost. We all lost. I feel like we did everything we possibly could do advocate for and protect ourselves. In the past few days while grieving my brother, I can’t help but think about those victims who might not have the knowledge of the legal system to advocate for themselves, or who don’t know the doors to knock on. What about them? For those of you who didn’t know my only brother, he was hilarious, quirky, very intelligent, and really would give all of himself for anyone he loved. I miss him. And I know that I’ll miss him more with every day that passes. I love you Khalid
If all of that weren’t wrenching enough, the details of Majors’ history with the family make the case even more tragic.
On Aug. 6, 2013, Jabara’s mother, Haifa, filed a restraining order against Majors saying he “harassed” and “stalked” her by “knocking at windows late at nite, harassing me with ugly sex words over the phone, taking pictures and harassing my helper in garage.” In March of 2015, Majors was arrested for violating the restraining order, having accosted her and told her “F––– you and I want to kill you,” according to a police report cited by the Post, and his trial on those charges was set for October.
On Sept. 12, 2015, Haifa was discovered on the side of the road with a “severely broken left arm, a broken nose, and road rash all over her body,” according to a police report cited by the Post.
From the Post:
When police located Majors inside an apartment complex near the scene of the hit-and-run, “he was extremely drunk and urinating, without the use of his hands, through his open pants,” according to an incident report.
“Is she ok? Haifa?” Majors said, according to the police report. “I was out driving my car, drunk. I’m always drunk and you guys never stop me. And there was this rabbit, and Haifa jumped out in front of my car.”
“Majors went on to repeat this with variations including that he ‘hit her’ and ‘I left because I was scared,’” the officer wrote in the report. Police found his car with its windshield shattered and “what appeared to be blood or tissue stuck on it.”
Majors, who court records showed was married to a man in 2014, told police that the family “were filthy Lebanese and they throw gay people off roof tops,” a police report stated. Majors was charged with assault and battery with a deadly weapon, leaving the scene of a collision involving injury, violating a protective order, and public intoxication.
Then eight months after his arrest, according to the Tulsa World, LaFortune ignored a plea from prosecutors who argued that Majors should not be offered bond—or to have bond set higher than it was—because he “demonstrated a wanton disregard for the life of the victim and the safety of the public.” Bail was set at just over $70,000, Majors posted bond, and was released.
Family friend Rebecca Abou-Chedid told the Post that she felt the current political climate was partially responsible for the deaths. “After 9/11 you did not see the rhetoric that you see now. It’s gotten so much worse,” she said. “If crazy people keep hearing that Mexicans are rapists and Arabs are terrorists, well then who are crazy people going to take their craziness out on?” While Majors reportedly verbally harassed the family by calling them “Mooslems,” Abou-Chedid told the Post that the Jabara family was Christian.