Texas authorities used search warrants to investigate Muslim victim’s past, instead of his white killer’s
by Aysha Qamar
When a 31-year-old Muslim man was shot to death in his car, little to no information was shared online. It seems like the issue wasn’t important enough for many to cover until an uproar on social media demanded justice for Adil Dghoughi.
Dghoughi, an unarmed Moroccan citizen living in the U.S., was shot and killed by a Texas resident in an unprovoked attack on Oct. 11. Not only was no investigation conducted until the family demanded justice in the case, but the man who shot Dghoughi was also not arrested until 11 days later, despite admitting he had done so. While the case was considered resolved and closed last year, a recent report by BuzzFeed News found that search warrants show authorities focused on Dghoughi’s personal life while ignoring that of the 65-year-old man who admitted to shooting him.
Dghoughi was shot by 65-year-old Terry Turner for sitting in a parked car near Turner’s residence in Martindale, Texas, a small town about 40 miles from Austin, Daily Kos reported. While it is unclear why authorities initially did not pursue charges, advocates believe it had to do with Turner being friends with local police.
According to family members, Dghoughi had spent the weekend before his death with his girlfriend, Sarah Todd. After Dghoughi left Todd’s place, he ended up in the driveway of Turner’s home. While it’s unclear what led him there, Todd and his family members believe he may have been lost and trying to get signal, a difficult task in some parts of Texas. The affidavit notes that when Turner saw the car he ran for his handgun, attempted to chase the car as it reversed into the street, and opened fire.
After shooting unarmed Dghoughi, Turner called 911. Despite the evidence and calls to 911 in which Turner admitted killing Dghoughi, local authorities did nothing to hold him accountable. It wasn’t until he turned himself in 11 days later that he was arrested.
With no information on the case and several unanswered questions, Dghoughi’s brother Othmane Dghoughi tried to take matters into his own hands to spread awareness of the case. He spoke to local activists in Texas and media officials, including those from BuzzFeed News and the Daily Beast, in an attempt to bring exposure to the case. It was then the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office began its investigation on Oct. 20, 2021, BuzzFeed News reported.
But this sheds light on another issue: Search warrants obtained by BuzzFeed News show the investigation that was conducted focused on the victim, not the suspect. Investigators probed into intimate details of Dghoughi’s personal life, such as his social media posts, browsing history, emails, pictures, texts, and phone calls—yet failed to look into Turner’s life.
While no search warrant was obtained by investigators to look through the phone, other sheriff’s office records said that “the expectation of privacy was surrendered on the device” after Dghoughi dropped the phone and was killed by the gunshot.
“The only investigation was on my brother to give a reason for the killer to get away,” Othmane Dghoughi told BuzzFeed News. “I had the feeling that was going to happen.”
According to search warrants and an arrest affidavit, after the shooting Turner told deputies he was confronting someone he believed might have been burglarizing or robbing his property. He even claimed Dghoughi “tried to pull a gun” on him, but no gun was found at the scene aside from the handgun used by Turner.
According to BuzzFeed News, instead of a handgun deputies found Dghoughi’s Android phone, which according to investigative records was seized and searched. Just as family members had noted, the phone indicated that Dghoughi had been using the GPS application on his Samsung Note 10+ moments before his death.
But that’s not all: In addition to going through his phone without a search warrant, investigators submitted a search warrant to Google on Oct. 20 asking for details about Dghoughi’s email account, usernames, credit card numbers, contacts, calendars, voicemails, pictures, and GPS locations. They also requested information for any “tombstone accounts” on Google, meaning any accounts that Dghoughi had deleted recently, BuzzFeed News reported. Additionally, they also submitted a search warrant to access his Facebook and other social media accounts.
After doing so, they not only probed his accounts but took them down, devastating family members who were using his accounts and former posts to remember him after his death.
It’s unclear what investigators hoped to find as Dghoughi and Turner had never met before shooting. Why photos and information Dghoughi had are important isn’t clear. Instead of focusing on the shooter, law enforcement officials seemed to be probing Dghoughi in an attempt to make him look at fault. Clear racial bias seems to have impacted the investigation.
“It has nothing to do with the case,” Dghoughi’s mother, Fatiha Haouass, told BuzzFeed News. “It’s his private life, in the past, before he was shot.”
But these instances of probing Dghoughi are not the only problematic aspects of the case.
Dghoughi’s family told BuzzFeed news that his blood was drawn in the hospital as part of the investigation. In contrast, Turner’s attorney, Larry Bloomquist, told BuzzFeed News his client’s blood was never drawn as part of the investigation.
“If it is relevant, then why haven’t they issued the same subpoenas for the suspect?” Rebecca Webber, the family’s attorney, told BuzzFeed News. “Somehow, what Adil googled late at night by himself in August matters to why he was murdered in October. Then what Terry Turner was googling that night needs to be told as well.”
According to the outlet, blood is often taken from victims and suspects to determine if they may have ingested alcohol or drugs.
At this time, the sheriff’s investigation has ended. The case is now being handled by the Caldwell County district attorney’s office. Prosecutors will make the presentation to the grand jury on Wednesday, which will decide if Turner should be indicted.