TUSCALOOSA - A man of Arab descent was in fair condition Friday night after being shot Thursday night by a man who had been yelling racial slurs outside a Middle Eastern takeout restaurant near the University of Alabama campus.
Among those who went to the aid of Nabil Chagri was John Bart Tyra, a Marine Reservist who returned from a tour in Iraq nearly a year ago. Afterward, Tyra said he was sickened by the incident.
"I shed a few tears over it, let's put it that way," said Tyra, a Tuscaloosa resident and a lance corporal in the Bessemer-based 4th Anti-Terrorism Battalion. "It just breaks my heart that that can happen here in the United States."
Friday morning, authorities arrested Jason Michael Gardner, 23, of Northport. He was charged with attempted murder and discharging a firearm into an occupied vehicle. Gardner was in the Tuscaloosa County Jail on Friday night, with bonds set at $130,000.
The incident happened shortly before 11 p.m. Thursday at the Quick Grill, a small takeout restaurant specializing in Middle Eastern foods. It's situated on a stretch of University Boulevard known as the Strip.
Jassim Madan, a native of the Persian Gulf country of Bahrain, said he has operated the restaurant for about five years.
Madan said he was inside Thursday night when a customer told him a man was urinating on the restaurant. When the man was told to leave, Madan said, the man used a racial slur and slapped one of the restaurant's customers.
"Everybody was trying to control this guy," said Tyra, who had come over with a friend from a nearby bar to order some food and saw the guy yelling racial slurs. "He was causing so much drama. He was being a moron."
The man left but threatened to come back, and ultimately returned alone in his truck with a .22-caliber rifle and began firing at the rear of a van parked behind the restaurant, said Lt. Loyd Baker, commander of the Tuscaloosa County Metro Homicide Unit.
Family in a van
Chagri, 27, and his wife were in the front of the van. His young daughter and an infant sibling, in a car seat, were in the back. Madan said the Moroccan-born Chagri and his family were customers, "sitting in the car and waiting for the order."
Tyra said he heard the five or six shots and headed in that direction. He saw a big hole in the van's rear window, opened up the passenger side door and saw "the man ... sitting there slumped over the steering wheel, and there was blood everywhere."
Baker said Chagri was hit in the head and the back, and that authorities did not know what the assailant's "motive in this was, if he thought that this man was the business owner or what."
Tyra and Madan got Chagri out of the van and took him inside the restaurant, where they used paper napkins to keep pressure on his head wound. "He was rocking back and forth real heavily and he was saying a quotation in Arabic over and over again ...," Tyra said. "I figure he was praying or something."
He was. Madan said Chagri was saying, "Allahu akhbar," "God is great."
Tyra said he spent some time in the van, trying to calm Chagri's wife and daughter. While there, he noticed blood spattered on the infant's blanket.
"That kind of shook me up a little bit," he said.
Chagri was in DCH Regional Medical Center.