RICHMOND, Va. -- A family of Afghan refugees was left terrified when multiple bullets came flying into their home. Their fears only worsened when it took Richmond Police several hours to respond to the incident.
Mohammad Waseem Aslami said he, his wife and their ten kids were among the tens of thousands who escaped their war-torn home country of Afghanistan in August 2021 after the Taliban takeover.
He described his journey to the U.S. as lengthy, stopping in Germany along the way and spending time at a military base. Eventually, his family resettled in Richmond and moved into a house on Pollock Street on the city's Northside, thinking they had finally found security and protection.
But the violence they fled from seemed to follow.
“We came from Afghanistan to be safe here, but there is no safety," Aslami said. “I am too much unhappy.”
In the early morning hours of July 19, Aslami said his family was asleep when they were startled by the sound of gunshots.
"We woke up just to see my children in the halls, and [there was] too much crying. For my children, [it was the] first time seeing a shooting," he said.
Cell phone video from inside the home showed six bullet holes, some penetrating the walls where children were sleeping.
An advocate with the Afghan Association of Central Virginia said he came to the family's house as soon as he learned what happened.
“We saw that the bullets were two inches above their kids' heads," he said. “They were lucky. God gave them another life.”
However, they were upset about the response from Richmond Police as it took more than three hours for an officer to arrive at the scene of what should have been considered a high-priority call.
Aslami said he first called 911 around 4:20 a.m.
“I told him there’s a shooting — firing is starting. We want your help. Come to my home," Aslami recalled.
His phone log showed he called emergency communications three more times around 5 a.m., 6:15 a.m., and 6:30 a.m.
According to police, it wasn't until 7:34 a.m. that an officer arrived.
“That is something that is not acceptable as a community member and as a U.S. citizen," the advocate said. "The police did not show up on time. Godforsaken, what could have happened to them? They were screaming. They were shouting and yelling."
CBS 6 reached out to the Richmond Police Department for answers. Spokesperson Tracy Walker sent the following timeline:
- Around 4 a.m., police confirmed a call from Pollock Street came through. However, Walker said the call was for a "breaking and entering" with reports of stolen property and no injuries involved. At the time, officers were working on higher priority calls. Walker said the call was added to the officers' list of calls for service.
- At 6:58 a.m., Walker said a second caller clarified to 911 that the incident was not breaking and entering, but rather a shooting. This call then took higher priority and emergency communications dispatched the next available officer.
- At 7:34 a.m., that officer arrived and took a report for a shooting into a home and destruction to property.
Walker said multiple vehicles owned by other individuals were also damaged by bullets.
Police will continue to look into what went wrong with the emergency communications and respond with more information to come.
Walker said police do not have suspect information at this time, but neighbors who saw something or have doorbell camera footage are encouraged to contact investigators.
Despite the circumstances, Aslami said he's still grateful to be in the U.S.
“Everywhere in every country has this problem, but [I'm] happy we are here, but we want to find a safe place for us," he said.