A Syrian refugee who escaped his war-torn country in 2016 and took a job delivering pizzas in Baltimore to help support his family was gunned down earlier this month on a street less than five minutes from his workplace, authorities said.
Khaled Heeba, 31, was fatally shot Feb. 7 in the 1300 block of W. Franklin Street, Baltimore police officials said. They released video last week that they allege shows Heeba's possible killer in the moments before and after the shooting.
The man, described as about 5 feet, 9 inches tall, slim in build and wearing all black, was seen running from the area following the gunfire. Heeba was shot in the chest around 1:15 p.m., in broad daylight, according to the Baltimore Sun. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.
Though police investigators have not released details of what they believe happened, workers with Mozaic DMV, a nonprofit organization that aids refugees in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, wrote on the group's Facebook page that Heeba's "big heart" cost him his life.
"While working his last delivery route before Friday prayer, Khaled witnessed a distressing situation taking place and rushed into action," the post states. "He jumped out of his car and chased after the man who had caused the disturbance. The man pulled a gun on Khaled and killed him instantly.
“Khaled never made it to Friday prayer, or home to his family. He died a few blocks away from home.”
Co-workers and a family friend told the Sun that Heeba's family came to the United States seeking a better, safer life. According to Mozaic, Heeba was the sole breadwinner for he and his parents.
"He left his own country because it was a war zone in Syria, just for him to end up getting murdered here," co-worker Theresa Birmingham told the newspaper. "He was just really a sweet guy. It's been 10 days (since his slaying) and I still expect to see him walk in through the door."
Investigators believe Heeba was shot outside Yun’s Grocery Store, where blood stained the pavement a few steps from the doorway, the newspaper said. The video released by police shows the man strolling along the sidewalk next to the store shortly before Heeba was shot.
He is also seen running back in the opposite direction following the fatal shooting.
Heeba delivered pizza for Vizzini's Pizza and Subs, where he was considered part of the family, CBS Baltimore reported. Baltimore police Detective Donny Moses said he was "putting in a hard day's work" when he was killed.
"He was our friend and family. You couldn't have a better person than what you had in Khaled," another co-worker, Kimberly Mcmanaway, told the news station. "Why somebody would do this, I don't know."
Through a translator, Heeba’s parents described him as a family man working to help pay off a home.
"He was always concerned with our pleasure before his own," his mother said, according to the post on Mozaic's Facebook page. "He'd work a long day and then come back and kiss my hands and feet and say, 'Mama, be happy with me.' Wallahi (Arabic for 'I swear to God'), I was always happy with him."
Raghad Bushnag, who works with refugees through Mozaic, told the CBS affiliate Heeba and his parents fled Syria in 2013 and went to Egypt.
They arrived in the U.S. three years ago. Heeba’s older brother, who is in Germany, could not come to be with his parents after his brother’s death because of the travel ban keeping Syrian refugees from entering the country, the news station said.
"I have not seen any of the refugees who was as hard-working as (Heeba)," Bushnag said. "And he's a very good family man to his mother and father. He is a man with high character. He has a tender heart. He helps everyone. He goes out of his way to help people."
"This is the life we live in right now. This is a war zone here," Mcmanaway told the news station. "Do you leave your country to come here, and ours is a war zone. Everybody's killing someone around the corner that you know."
As of Feb. 17, there had been 43 killings in Baltimore, according to the Sun. Police officials have reported at least two additional fatal shootings since then.
Anyone with information on Heeba’s slaying is asked to call Baltimore detectives at 410-396-2100 or Metro Crime Stoppers at 1-866-7LOCKUP.