SALEM, Ore. — Mohammed Fawad Mohammadi survived the war in his native Afghanistan, where he served as an interpreter for U.S. military forces.
Now he is in a hospital, with part of his leg amputated after a man in Oregon hit Mohammadi with his car and then accelerated at him again.
Perry George Nicolopoulos was indicted late Thursday on 16 charges, including attempted murder, in the attack in Lincoln City, according to court records. Mohammadi’s wife and their year-old son narrowly escaped injury in the attack that shocked the coastal tourist town.
Police have found no evidence that Nicolopoulos, whose last known address was Tacoma, Washington, committed a hate crime, said Lt. Jerry Palmer of the Lincoln City Police Department.
“We don’t know his mindset. We have no idea what his motivations were, or his mental state, other than that he was under the influence,” Palmer said. One of the charges Nicolopoulos is facing is drunken driving.
A group that monitors anti-Muslim discrimination and hate crimes, however, is calling for a more thorough investigation.
“Given the unprecedented rise in anti-Muslim hate incidents in recent years ... we urge law enforcement authorities to look into possibility of a bias motive in this,” Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, said.
Mohammadi served in combat zones with US forces.
“He survived that, and came here and had this happen,” Hooper said.
The attack happened on March 6 in the parking lot of a Walgreens drug store off coastal Highway 101.
First, Nicolopoulos’ car hit Mohammadi’s Toyota Prius. Mohammadi and his wife Nelab Sarabi got out to inspect the damage and exchange insurance information, leaving their son inside, when Nicolopoulos drove into their car again, according to an affidavit.
This time, Mohammadi was hit, and was pinned by Nicolopoulos’ car to his own car door. Nicolopoulos’ car reversed and crashed into the Prius again before driving away.
Police found Nicolopoulos’ license plate embedded in the Prius.
“We’re used to seeing crashes, but for an individual to deliberately, for whatever reason, to decide to use his vehicle as a weapon makes everybody wonder what this person’s mindset was and what drove him to do this,” Palmer said.
Mohammadi, who was flown to a hospital in Portland, described seeing his attacker.
“The airbag was in his face, but he was very relaxed. At that time, I thought, ‘This is an attack. It’s not an accident,’” Mohammadi told the Lake Oswego Review, a newspaper in the Portland suburb where he works in a food market.
Doctors amputated Mohammadi’s leg about 6 inches below the knee, according to a GoFundMe page raising funds for the family. As of Friday, more than half of the $100,000 goal had been raised. Many of the commenters thanked Mohammadi for his service to the United States and wished him a speedy recovery.
Nicolopoulos, 68, is in the county jail on $1 million bail. He has been assigned a court-appointed attorney, who did not respond to a phone call.
Nicolopoulos has had numerous run-ins with the law in Washington state, including a case in which he pleaded guilty to third-degree assault in 2001 and another in which he pleaded guilty to malicious mischief in 1996.
AP reporter Phuong Le contributed to this report from Seattle.