A woman was killed by her husband in an apparent murder-suicide, police said, just moments after she called 911 for help. Phoenix police spokesperson Sgt. Tommy Thompson told the Arizona Republic that a Sunday shooting that occurred at a home near 39th Avenue and Baseline Road is being investigated as a murder-suicide.
Thompson said they believe that 52-year-old Abul Ahsan Habib shot and killed his wife, 43-year-old Syeda Sohaly Akter, before turning the gun on himself. Akter first called police on Sunday morning about a domestic violence incident involving her husband and then called again when Habib returned to the home. During the second call, Thompson said the police operator heard gunshots.
“Obviously this is a tragedy,” Thompson told Fox10 Phoenix. “When you have a man who kills his wife and then kills himself, that’s a tragedy and I don’t know how to describe it other than that. So our hearts go out to the family members that have to live through this.”
Officers Responded to the Home After the First Call for Help But Habib Had Left the Residence
Officials responded to the home after Akter’s first call reporting domestic violence, Thompson said. Akter told officers she had gotten into a verbal argument with her husband and wanted him to leave the house. Police officers first arrived at the residence at 9:26 a.m., Thompson told the Arizona Republic, but Habib had already left the house.
Officers met with Akter and her adult son and provided information about getting a restraining order against her husband. They also said to call them back if Habib returned to the house, then left. Shortly after, Thompson said the son also left on an errand. The spokesperson then said that just five minutes after officers left, Akter called 911 again to report that Habib had returned. While she spoke to the operator, Thompson said gunshots were heard on the call.
Police officers were back at the residence by 9:51 a.m. and entered the home, finding both Akter and Habib. Both had gunshot wounds, Thompson told the outlet, and a gun was also recovered. The investigation is ongoing.
Domestic Violence Deaths Have Increased Since the Onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic
Domestic violence deaths have increased across the country since the COVID-19 pandemic, officials said. In Phoenix, police said the first six months of the year have seen a dramatic increase in domestic violence cases compared to the same time period in 2019. According to a police statement on crime statistics in Phoenix:
In the first half of 2019, in Phoenix there were 10 homicides tied to domestic violence. That number jumped to 24 in 2020, a 140 percent increase. When looking at the numbers year-to-date, through August 3, the situation becomes even more concerning. During that time, domestic violence related deaths jumped 180 percent over the same time period in 2019.
Myriah Mhoon, the CEO of New Life Center, the biggest domestic violence shelter in Arizona, said since the pandemic began, there have been fewer requests for help at the same time as an increase in violence.
“The first time in the last two and a half years, I actually have beds available, but we are seeing a spike in of deaths due to domestic violence,” Mhoon told Fox10 Phoenix. “So what that is telling me is that the pandemic and the isolation between the survivor and the perpetrator does have significance when we’re looking at, did the pandemic have an escalation or create an escalation of domestic violence.”
Mhoon also told Arizona Family that because of the pandemic, “A lot of the times they’re in the same room as the perpetrator for weeks… if not months. They literally aren’t able to get to us and say they need help.”
For domestic violence resources in the U.S., consult the National Domestic Violence Hotline.