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July 20 2011 | UNITED STATES

TEXAS/USA

Victim Forgives Death Row Inmate, but it is not enough to stop the execution of M. Stroman. The endless spiral of hatred starting after the Twin Towers attack.

 
printable version


BBC News

Texas death row killer forgiven by shooting victim.

By Alastair Leithead

BBC News, Texas

Mark Stroman, due to be executed for going on a killing spree, now describes hate as "pure ignorance"

In the nine years Mark Stroman has been on death row in Texas, he says he has watched 208 people walk past him on the way to be executed.

This week it is his turn.

But fighting to save his life is the man he shot in the face and blinded in one eye.

In the days following 11 September, 2001, Stroman attacked three people, killing two of them.

The attack left Rais Bhuyian blind in his right eye

He was targeting anyone he considered an "Arab", calling it revenge for 9/11.

"What Mark Stroman did was a hate crime, and hate crimes come from ignorance," said Rais Bhuiyan, 37, the only man to survive the shooting.

"His execution will not eradicate hate crimes from this world, we will just simply lose another human life."

'Uneducated idiot'

It was a Friday lunchtime when a gunman walked into the petrol station shop and pointed a double-barrelled shotgun at Rais.

He had been robbed before and knew what to do. He offered the money from the cash register, but that didn't appear to be what Mark Stroman had come for.

"He asked me 'where are you from?' and that's a strange question to ask in a robbery. As soon as I said 'excuse me?' I heard an explosion and felt the sensation of a million bees stinging my face."

Rais Bhuyian, a Bangladeshi-born naturalised US citizen, played dead until his attacker left.

If I can forgive my offender who tried to take my life, we can all work together to forgive each other and move forward”

He needed many operations, has lost the sight in his right eye and still carries shotgun pellets in his face, but is now campaigning hard to prevent his attacker from being put to death.

Mark Stroman killed two other men in a similar way - Vasudev Patel, an Indian immigrant who was Hindu, and Waqar Hasan, a Muslim born in Pakistan. They were both shot as they stood behind a counter.

"I was an uneducated idiot back then and now I'm a more understanding human being," Stroman said through the black telephone handset, from behind a thick pane of glass in the death row visiting room at the Polunsky Unit, Livingston, Texas.

It was a week before the death sentence was due to be carried out, and his last opportunity to speak publicly about what he did, why he did it, and what he thought about the man he shot who was now fighting for his life.

"At that time here in America everybody was saying 'let's get them' - we didn't know who to get, we were just stereotyping. I stereotyped all Muslims as terrorists and that was wrong."

Stroman is shaven-headed and covered in tattoos. He made a point of putting up a small American flag on the counter behind the thick glass as the camera started rolling for the interview.

Mark Stroman is due to be put to death by lethal injection

At 41, he has lost some of the muscle he had when he appeared in court nine years ago, when he proudly held up an American flag and gave the thumbs up to the courtroom cameras.

"I had some poor upbringing and I grabbed a hold of some ideas which was ignorance, you know, and hate is pure ignorance. I no longer want to be like hate, I want to be like me," he said.

"No matter what I do or say is going to change the fact that even you are going to view the Muslims as suspect," he told me.

"If you get on the airplane and you see one, you might not be wanting to, but you are going to watch that person - we live in different times now, but it's not right to stereotype them and I'm the first to admit I did that."

Offering forgiveness

Rais Bhuyian is a Muslim, and on what he feared was his deathbed, he promised Allah he would make a pilgrimage to the Hajj in Mecca. There he thought more deeply about what had happened and what he wanted to do.

"This campaign is all about passion, forgiveness, tolerance and healing. We should not stay in the past, we must move forward," he said.

"If I can forgive my offender who tried to take my life, we can all work together to forgive each other and move forward and take a new narrative on the 10th anniversary of 11 September."

He had been in touch with Stroman, who he would like to see as "a spokesperson, an educator, teaching a lot of people as ignorant as him what is wrong".

Stroman says he has asked himself the question a thousand times - would he be able to forgive the man who shot him in the face? He said he would find it very hard.

"I tried to kill this man, and this man is now trying to save my life. This man is inspiring to me.

Rais Bhuiyan says Stroman could have a role as an 'educator'

"Here it is, the attacker and the attackee, you know, pulling together. The hate has to stop - one second of hate will cause a lifetime of misery. I've done that - it's wrong, and if me and Rais can reach one person, mission accomplished.

"If this is what my purpose in life is, let's do it - rock on, saddle up it's rodeo time as we say in Texas."

It seems very unlikely that the governor of Texas will issue a stay of execution - the state is known for its regular use of the death penalty - but Stroman seems resigned to it.

"To be honest, the closer I get to death the more at peace I am," he said.

Rais Bhuiyan's desire to forgive and to stop this execution is a small step towards bringing communities together.

"He did what he did, but now he is a different person, and can talk to the people - those who are as ignorant as him - so there is a chance we can live in a better society. Execution is not a solution in this case."

Mark Stroman is due to be put to death by lethal injection on Wednesday 20 July at 1800 Texas time (0000 GMT on Thursday).

 

* * *

 

Death Penalty Information Center

VICTIMS: Victim of Hate Crime After 9/11 Seeks Clemency for His Condemned Attacker

In 2001, Mark Stroman (pictured) shot several people in Texas whom he believed were Arabs in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11.  Stroman killed at least two men and wounded Rais Bhuiyan, who is from Bangladesh and was working at a Dallas gas station.  Stroman received the death penalty for the murders and is scheduled to be executed on July 20.  Bhuiyan, who lost the use of one eye as a result of the shooting, has spent the last few months seeking clemency for Stroman.  In a recent interview with the New York Times, Bhuiyan said, "I requested a meeting with Mr. Stroman. I’m eagerly awaiting to see him in person and exchange ideas. I would talk about love and compassion. We all make mistakes. He’s another human being, like me.  Hate the sin, not the sinner. It’s very important that I meet him to tell him I feel for him and I strongly believe he should get a second chance. That I never hated the U.S. He could educate a lot of people. Thinking about what is going to happen makes me very emotional. I can’t sleep. Once I go to bed I feel there is another person that I know who is in his bed thinking about what is going to happen to him — that he is going to be tied to a bed and killed. It makes me very emotional and very sad and makes me want to do more." Stroman has been moved by Bhuiyan's actions and agrees, "The hate has to stop." 

 

* * *

 

New York Times

 

The Hated and the Hater, Both Touched by Crime

By TIMOTHY WILLIAMS

Mark Anthony Stroman, 41, a stonecutter from Dallas, shot people he believed were Arabs, saying he was enraged by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He killed at least two: Vasudev Patel, an Indian immigrant who was Hindu, and Waqar Hasan, a Muslim born in Pakistan.

 

A third shooting victim, Rais Bhuiyan, 37, a former Air Force pilot from Bangladesh, survived after Mr. Stroman shot him in the face at close range. Mr. Stroman admitted to the shootings. He is scheduled to be executed on Wednesday.

 

Mr. Bhuiyan, despite being partly blinded in his right eye, has spent the past several months creating a Web site with a petition and meeting with officials in Texas to try to persuade the state to spare Mr. Stroman.

 

Mr. Bhuiyan was interviewed over the phone. Mr. Stroman responded to questions in a typewritten letter dated June 26 that included a photograph of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001: smoke is seen billowing out of the North Tower and United Airlines Flight 175 is moments away from striking the South Tower. The ellipses in his answers are his.

 

Q Mr. Bhuiyan, you were working as a clerk at a friend’s service station on Sept. 21, 2001. What do you remember?

 

A I was robbed a couple of times. It was a dangerous neighborhood. People would come into the store to sell televisions and computers.  One time a man came with a gun and I thought he wanted to sell it to make money. He said, “If you don’t give me money I will blow your head off.” On Sept. 21, it was Friday around 12:30 in the afternoon.

Business was slow. It was raining cats and dogs. The neighbor from the barber shop had come in and brought chips and drinks. Then there’s a guy coming into the store with a hat and sunglasses and a bandanna and a gun in his hand. I thought it was a robbery. I said, “Don’t shoot me please. Take all the money.” He said, “Where are you from?” He was four or five feet away from me. I felt cold air in my spine. I said, “Excuse me?” It was a double-barrel gun. I felt a million bee stings on my face at the same time. Then I heard an explosion. I saw images of my parents, my siblings and my fiancée and then a graveyard and I thought, “Am I dying today?” I looked down and saw blood was pouring from my head. I placed both my hands on my head to get my brains in and I screamed, “Mom!” I looked and he was still staring at me and I thought he might shoot me again if I don’t fall and he doesn’t think I’m dead. The floor was getting wet with my blood. Then he left the store. I could not believe he shot me. I thought I was dreaming, going through a hallucination. I didn’t do anything wrong. I was not a threat to him. I couldn’t believe someone would just shoot you like that.

 

Q What happened next?

 

A I wanted to go outside. I went to the barber shop and they ran away. They saw me full of blood running like a slaughtered chicken and they thought the guy was behind me. I saw my face in the barbershop mirror and I couldn’t believe it was me. (He begins to cry). A few minutes before, I had been a young guy in a T-shirt and shorts and tennis shoes. (He begins to cry more forcefully). Sorry, I haven’t cried for the past nine years. I was lucky because there was an ambulance in the area. I was asking God, asking for forgiveness, saying I would do my best. Reciting verses from the Koran. I said I would dedicate my life to the poor. I felt my eyes were closing and it felt like my brain was shutting down slowly.

 

Q What was the extent of your injuries?

 

A There were 38 pellets in my face. I couldn’t open my eyes or talk or open my jaw. I couldn’t even eat or drink anything. It was very painful to even swallow because I was shot in my throat. After a few hours in the hospital I could open my left eye. My face was heavily swollen. There were gunshot wounds. My face was horrible. I couldn’t believe it was my face. I prayed, “Please God, give me my face back.” ( Mr. Bhuiyan was discharged the day after being treated; he was told he did not have health insurance. For the next several

months, he slept on people’s couches and had to rely on physicians’ samples for medication, including painkillers and eye drops. He had several operations on his right eye; he now has only limited vision in it.)

 

Q Mr. Stroman has admitted trying to kill you. Why are you trying to save his life?

 

A I was raised very well by my parents and teachers. They raised me with good morals and strong faith. They taught me to put yourself in others’ shoes. Even if they hurt you, don’t take revenge. Forgive them. Move on. It will bring something good to you and them. My Islamic faith teaches me this too. He said he did this as an act of war and a lot of Americans wanted to do it but he had the courage to do it — to shoot Muslims. After it happened I was just simply struggling to survive in this country. I decided that forgiveness was not enough. That what he did was out of ignorance. I decided I had to do something to save this person’s life. That killing someone in Dallas is not an answer for what happened on Sept. 11.

 

Q If you had the chance to meet Mr. Stroman, what would you say to him?

 

A I requested a meeting with Mr. Stroman. I’m eagerly awaiting to see him in person and exchange ideas. I would talk about love and compassion. We all make mistakes. He’s another human being, like me.  Hate the sin, not the sinner. It’s very important that I meet him to tell him I feel for him and I strongly believe he should get a second chance. That I never hated the U.S. He could educate a lot of people. Thinking about what is going to happen makes me very emotional. I can’t sleep. Once I go to bed I feel there is another person that I know who is in his bed thinking about what is going to happen to him — that he is going to be tied to a bed and killed. It makes me very emotional and very sad and makes me want to do more.

 

Q How are you doing, Mr. Stroman?

 

A “i’ve only 25 days left until Texas Straps Me to a Gurney and pumps me full of toxic bug juice, But then again, we all face an Ending at some time or another. All is well, Spirits are high, i sit here with a Cup of Coffee and some Good ole Classic Rock playing on My radio, how Ironic, the song ‘Free Bird’ by Lynyrd Skynyrd...”

 

Q What do you think of Rais Bhuiyan’s efforts to keep you from being executed?

 

A “Yes, Mr Rais Bhuiyan, what an inspiring soul...for him to come forward after what ive done speaks Volume’s...and has really Touched My heart and the heart of Many others World Wide...Especially since for the last 10 years all we have heard about is How Evil the Islamic faith Can be...its proof that all are Not bad nor Evil.”

 

Q Tell me what you are thinking now, a few weeks before your scheduled execution.

 

A “Not only do I have all My friends and supporters trying to Save my Life, but now i have The Islamic Community Joining in...Spearheaded by one Very Remarkable man Named Rais Bhuiyan, Who is a Survivor of My Hate. His deep Islamic Beliefs Have gave him the strength to Forgive the Un-forgiveable...that is truly Inspiring to me, and should be an Example for us all. The Hate, has to stop, we are all in this world together. My jesus Faith&  Texas Roots have Deepened My Understanding as well. Its almost been 10 years since The world stopped Turning, and we as a nation will never be able to forget what we felt that day, I surely wont, but I can tell you what im feeling Today, and that’s very grateful for Rais Bhuiyan’s Efforts to save my life after I tried to end His. A lot of people out There are still hurt and full of hate, and as I Sit here On Texas Death watch counting down to my Own Death, I have been given the chance to openly Express whats inside this Texas Mind and heart, and hopefully that something good will come of this.  We need More Forgiveness and Understanding and less hate.” Mr. Stroman signed off, “Texas Loud&  Texas proud...TRUE AMERICAN.... Living to Die – Dying to Live.”

 

(T. Williams, "The Hated and the Hater, Both Touched by Crime," New York Times, July 19, 2011).

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

 

 

CBS News

JULY 18, 2011:

TEXAS:

Victim pleads for Texas death row inmate's life

On Wednesday, Texas plans to execute Mark Stroman, who killed 2 people and wounded another, in a rage over the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

 

CBS News correspondent Don Teague reports that one man is trying to stop the execution and he's the last person you'd expect.

 

A surveillance video captured the shooting rampage in the days following the September 11th terror attacks. Mark Stroman, a white supremacist, wanted revenge. So he went to 3 Dallas area convenience stores and shot three clerks whom he thought were Muslims.

 

"I acted out of rage, love and stupidity," Stroman says.

 

2 of his victims died. Stroman was convicted of murder and sentenced to death.

 

"It's sad, my split second of hate and anger after 9/11 has caused many people lifetimes of pain and I regret that to this day," Stroman says.

 

Stroman will be executed by lethal injection on Wednesday, unless Rais Bhuiyan has his way.

 

"Please show mercy. Please spare the life of Mark Stroman," says Bhuiyan.

 

He's campaigning to commute Stroman's sentence to life without parole.

 

"I'm praying (to) God to spare his life, to give him a chance. We all make mistakes as human beings," Bhuiyan says.

 

What sets this death penalty opponent apart, is that Bhuiyan is the sole survivor of Stroman's killing spree.

 

 

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