Jewish Federation Shooting Suspect Naveed Haq's Lost Summer
Last May, Naveed Haq showed up at W. Renner's studio apartment in Everett with nothing more than a duffel bag full of clothes. Last week, FBI agents followed Haq's footsteps to Renner's door, asking about a shooting at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle offices in Belltown that left one dead and five wounded.
Haq was Renner's best friend from college at Washington State University. Renner, 32, graduated in 2003; Haq in 2004. This spring, Haq, age 30, was unemployed, on food stamps, facing charges of lewd behavior in Kennewick, living in government-subsidized housing in the Tri-Cities, and battling manic depression, for which he was taking lithium. He had flirted with several careers, from dentistry to tutoring to electrical engineering (his major at WSU), but couldn't settle into anything permanent. "That's Naveed," Renner says, "he changed his mind all the time." Renner invited his old WSU pal to join him in Everett. "He was in a real rut," Renner says. "He couldn't find a job. I know what it's like."
Haq took Renner up on his offer, and spent a wayward two months in Everett. At first, Haq roomed with Renner in Renner's cramped $425-a-month studio in the small, plain two-story house that had been carved up into apartments. Later, Haq rented a one-bedroom apartment upstairs—furnished with nothing more than a leaky air mattress he borrowed from Renner, laid out on the dull brown carpet. He didn't even have any pots or pans.
According to his close friend, Haq's summer would include a lackluster job search, a foreboding confrontation with two women after a car crash, and an awkward liaison with a prostitute in the bathroom of Renner's apartment. In July, Haq left Everett and, according to Seattle Police, headed to the Tri-Cities to buy two semiautomatics and returned to Seattle, apparently on a mission to kill Jews.
We sat down with Renner and talked with him for three hours in the small studio apartment he had opened up to Haq, hearing a bleak description of Haq's dead-end summer from the one close friend who went out of his way to bail Haq out, scaring up job tips and offering encouragement. Renner was Haq's last tether to the real world. "If someone had just given him a job, this never would have happened," Renner speculates.
Indeed, Haq spent an idle summer in a studio apartment flirting with women on the internet—not in a radical mosque reading Sayyid Qutb. Despite his Islamic upbringing, Haq didn't even consider himself a Muslim.
While Haq's violence exploded inside a political context—the Jewish Federation, Israel's war in Lebanon—his motivations were those of a frustrated man, who, according to Renner, didn't fit in anywhere and felt persecuted and embarrassed by his parents' Pakistani background. Haq is not a jihadi, nor a radical Islamist; his anti-Semitic rhetoric seems more like a veneer of politics on a man disturbed by feelings of inadequacy and rejection.
According to police reports: Last week, just a few hours before the FBI showed up at Renner's door, Haq was shooting people. One woman, Pamela Waechter, 58, died and five other women were wounded. The accused shooter, armed with two semiautomatic pistols and a "substantial amount of extra ammunition," hid behind a large potted plant in the vestibule of a Belltown building. He took a 13-year-old girl hostage at gunpoint and forced his way into the well-secured offices of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle. He told the office workers not to call 911, and began shouting about Israel, Iraq, and the mistreatment of "his people" while showering the room with gunfire. Haq eventually turned his sights on Dayna Klein, who was 17 weeks pregnant. She put her arm protectively over her abdomen and Haq fired, wounding her in the forearm. Defying Haq's orders, Klein dragged herself into her office and called 911. Victims were jumping out of second-story windows, running down the halls, and hiding in broom closets. Haq, hunting down more victims, found Klein on the phone. The 911 operators asked her where the gunman was. Klein said: "Right here." She persuaded Haq to talk to the operators.
At first, he sounded enraged. "This is a hostage situation and I want these Jews to get out," Haq allegedly said. "I'm not upset at people. I'm upset at your foreign policy. These are Jews and I'm tired of getting pushed around and our people getting pushed around by the situation in the Middle East." The 911 operators talked him down, asking Haq for his name, asking him what he was wearing, and pointing out that Klein might need an ambulance. "I don't care," Haq said, but seemed, suddenly, to switch gears: "I'll give myself up... I'll put my gun down. She says my gun is down." "Who says?" the 911 operators asked. Haq said: "The woman I just shot."
Haq walked outside and surrendered to police without a fight.
"He stopped in the middle of it," Renner reflected later. "It's like right in the middle of it, he changed his mind. That's Naveed."
When Haq first arrived in Everett, Renner was also in a rough patch; he was struggling to make ends meet, working two jobs, keeping up his child-support payments for the two children he'd had with his ex. When we arrived at his apartment on Sunday night to meet him after work, he was late: His beat-up, borrowed Dodge van had run out of gas on the highway right before the Everett exit. We drove back to pick him up and buy him some gas.
Despite his own financial problems, Renner felt he owed his old friend a favor. Haq had let Renner stay with him in the Tri-Cities when Renner couldn't find work—now Renner was trying to pay back his troubled friend. "He was bipolar. He was moody." He obviously cared for Haq. Sometimes he had done Haq's more difficult math homework for him at WSU. But the summer devolved into a glum routine, with Renner frustrated by Haq's aimlessness. "I had to boot him out when I wanted to go to bed" says Renner, a tall, clean-cut man with sandy hair, a boyish face, and a meek voice. "He didn't have anything upstairs—no TV. He couldn't entertain himself."
Renner let Haq have a key to his apartment, and would typically find Haq in his place when he got home from work. Haq used his food-stamp card to buy them both food—mostly frozen lasagna and TV dinners. "Why don't you take out the garbage?" Renner would ask. "I buy the food," Haq would respond. "I'm a slob. He's a slob. This is a small place. There were pop cans everywhere, old food, dishes, clothes. It was getting pretty bad," Renner says, sitting on his couch, beneath a poster for Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.
While Renner, who works as a cell-phone tech and a construction worker, woke up at 5:00 a.m. every day, Haq would sleep in, play around on the internet, go to bars (like Shotze's, a local bar/restaurant chain), and cruise around Everett in his white 1999 Mazda pickup with a mutual friend of the pair named Kelly Turner. Turner is currently in the Snohomish County jail for possession of stolen property: a credit card he found and tried to use to buy gasoline.
Haq claimed that in the years since college, he had held jobs at RealNetworks (as a security guard), and Seattle Specialties (a telemarketing firm). "He got fired quite a bit," says Renner. "Or quit. People didn't like him on the job." He got a job at Lowe's in Everett right away, Renner said, but got fired after a week. "He thought people were messing with him," Renner says, "talking behind his back. He made some outburst and said: 'I showed them.'"
"He worked at Albertson's," said Chris Richey, another neighbor. Albertson's confirms that Haq boxed online orders, working at an Albertson's in Mill Creek (just south of Everett) for two weeks in May and June. "He walked off the job," says Albertson's spokesperson Donna Eggers. (He also bagged groceries at a Tri-Cities Albertson's last winter, but "walked off the job" there as well, Eggers says.)
Haq told friends he was flying down to Texas to interview for "some kind of technical job." According to the increasingly bitter Haq, things worked out as usual: The interview was going great, but then he blew it by asking the interviewer a hard question. "He said the interviewers got mad because he asked a question they didn't know the answer to," Renner said. "It was kind of weird. Naveed said 'If they don't pay me $60,000 a year, it's cheaper for me to just not have a job and live off the state.' I disagreed and we had an argument about that."
Mostly, Renner says, Haq was tormented by his failure with women. "He was hung up on girls. It really bothered him. He would get really upset. Almost crying. He thought it was because of his baldness and his size [Haq is 5'5" and 160 pounds]. He thought of getting a toupee. Sometimes he would get real loud and say, 'I've got a lot to offer; why won't women give me a chance?' I wished he was as hung up about his career."
Haq even told a policeman, "It is hard to meet women." That was in March, at a mall in Kennewick, where he was arrested for lewd conduct. According to the police report: "The victim [a teenage girl] said she noticed Haq standing on the gazebo. Haq then unzipped his pants and exposed his penis at the females. [The victim] states that mall security contacted Haq and Haq flipped them off. Dispatch also advised that the subject was under the influence of methamphetamines." Renner said Haq and his family were deeply embarrassed by the charges and that in Haq's version of the story, he was simply urinating in a parking lot. "That would probably be the end of the world in his mind," Renner said. "To go to trial for lewd conduct." Haq's trial for lewd conduct was scheduled to begin this Thursday.
Renner remembers sitting on the couch, watching TV, while Haq was on Renner's computer in a chatroom. "He was flirting with an Iranian girl," Renner recalls. "Naveed said, 'Watch this—I'll tell her I'm Pakistani and she won't want to talk to me anymore.' He was right." Haq also complained that the Muslim women were "frigid" and he thought that sexual repression "was the reason so many Middle Easterners are so angry."
Haq was married briefly, in an arranged marriage. He went to Pakistan with his parents in 2001, but returned to America without the bride. "He didn't really like her," Renner said, "She was pretty big. He debated about whether he wanted to bring her here and then split up with her. His parents were pretty upset about that." Renner says his friend never had sex with his wife.
Renner says Haq once brought a prostitute back to the studio apartment. He had picked her up on the road: "a redhead... about 40." "Do you want me to leave, dude?" Renner recalls asking. "No, we'll just go in the bathroom," Haq replied, disappearing into the bathroom for a half hour. "Afterwards, he felt kind of disgusted and embarrassed," Renner said. "He said the condom kept falling off."
He would also become suddenly and dramatically angry with some women. On June 7, 2006, Haq got into a fender bender involving a female driver. According to the Everett police, Haq accused the driver of "lying" to the female witness, and yelling, he followed her across the street into a store.
Renner was watching the Mariners play when Haq came home. "They showed a shot of a woman in the crowd," Renner said. "Naveed said, 'That looks like the woman witness. I'd like to rip off her head and shit down her throat.'"
Still, the two were friends and spent a lot of time together. Haq liked to talk about politics (he was a Democrat and a John Kerry supporter), about trying to find work, sometimes about religion. Haq was raised a Muslim and his father, Mian Haq, works as an engineer for a company that does work at the Hanford nuclear reservation. The elder Haq—who recently built a fancy home outside the Tri-Cities (Naveed Haq took Renner to see it when it was under construction), also helped start the Islamic Center in Richland. But Naveed Haq had fallen away from the faith. Last year, Renner says, Haq told him he had converted to Christianity, but "I don't think he considered himself anything. Lately." Haq didn't respect his parents' religion and would defiantly tell them over the phone that he was not fasting during Ramadan.
"He told me I should convert to Christianity," Renner smiled. "He said church would be a good place to meet girls." The two joked about some of their neighbors and people they'd meet when they went out. "He had a real good sense of humor," Renner said. "He liked to joke about people's quirks, funny situations he'd get himself into."
The pair drove to Marysville earlier this summer to see United 93, the movie about the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania on 9/11. "The movie mesmerized him," Renner said. "[After the movie], he was just running red lights, not paying attention." During our interview, Renner wondered if Haq had gotten the idea to force his way into the Jewish Federation—grabbing a girl at gunpoint—from the scene in the movie when the terrorists grabbed a stewardess and forced their way into the cockpit.
However, when the FBI first showed up on July 28, Renner couldn't imagine why they were asking about Haq. "I couldn't think of anything he could possibly have done to warrant the FBI," Renner said. "I thought it might be vandalism or something. When they told me, I couldn't believe it. I didn't believe it until I saw it on the news." Agents only spoke to Renner for 15 minutes, interviewing him outside in their car. They took his computer, but returned it the next day.
The agent asked Renner if Haq ever made anti-Semitic remarks. Renner says he said: "Well, he's Middle Eastern and the Muslims and Jews..." "So, he hates Jews?" the agent asked, according to Renner. "I didn't say that," Renner responded. "Well, that's what you just said," the agent concluded. According to Renner, that was the extent of the interview. The FBI did not return our calls to confirm the content of the interview.
Renner told us that Haq did have a history of anger toward Jews, saying that they controlled the media. Haq said Fox News was the worst, Renner says, because "it was owned by the most Jews."
The topic of Jews came up again on Monday, July 24—the last time the pair talked politics. Renner was calling Haq with a job tip. The conversation turned to the war in Lebanon; Haq said that Israel was running out of bombs and that the U.S. was giving them more. "I hadn't heard that," Renner says he told Haq. Haq said he read about it on the internet.
Two days later, Renner talked to Haq for the final time. It was Wednesday, July 26, two days before the shooting. "He was talking real slow," Renner says, "like he was drunk or drugged—but he wasn't drunk. He just said 'Hey, how's it going, man?'" Renner asked about the job lead he'd given Haq. "He told me he'd sent the resumé and was waiting to hear back," Renner said. Haq was also waiting for a pair of semiautomatic pistols.
"You have to wait five days to get a gun, don't you? This was way premeditated." Renner takes a breath, pauses, does the math. "When I talked to him—he must have already bought the guns..."
Haq had a mixed history with guns. According to Renner, Haq owned a pistol back in college that his father had taken away and put in a safety-deposit box. "Naveed wanted to get it back, but his dad wouldn't let him because of his mental issues. He was real moody."
Richey, the only other neighbor who knew Haq, says Haq was "always a very pleasant person" but the two had one awkward conversation in June. "I came home after target practice one day and I had my pistol," said Richey. "Naveed's eyes got as big as dinner plates. He started asking me questions about my gun and it kinda made me nervous so I went into my apartment and locked it up."
After everything that's happened, Renner obviously still cares about his friend. "I hope they don't execute him," he says softly. "God damn. He threw it all away."Sarah Mirk contributed to this firstname.lastname@example.org@thestranger.com
This article has been updated since its original publication.