The Milwaukee Police Officers saluted as the body of Community MPD officer, Naeem Sarosh was carried from the Milwaukee Muslim Funeral Home, 6644 W. Fairview Avenue into the black hearse. The procession to Forest Home Cemetery included dozens of police on motorcycles and in police cars.
The mourners gathered in a large, open green space at Forest Home Cemetery for janazah prayer, while about two dozen Milwaukee Police Officers in black uniforms stood nearby in the shade.
When the prayer was completed, four men hoisted the plain gray coffin on their shoulders and the burial procession began. A ceremonial parade of eight police officers, six men and two women, saluted as the coffin passed through their ranks. At the grave site, the body, wrapped in a white shroud, was removed from the coffin.
Islamic tradition encourages green burials, the body is buried directly into the ground without a coffin. Forest Home Cemetery is one of the places that allows for green burials.
Naeem Sarosh, 35, was killed by his next door neighbor on Monday. He was buried on Wednesday, as his young widow, Alia, 30, mother of two young girls, wept and was comforted by her aunts and women friends.
Mohammed Afzal, 65, has been charged with the first degree reckless homicide of Sarosh, a community service officer (CSO) with the Milwaukee Police Department. Sarosh was killed at 6:00 p.m. Monday while off duty, outside his home in the 4800 block of South 22nd Street.
The criminal complaint on file with Milwaukee County Circuit Court provides a detailed description of this senseless crime, which was recorded on the defendant’s security camera.
According to the complaint, witnesses from both families told essentially the same story. The two families got along well, the complaint said, except that the defendant, “for some reason” did not like Naeem Sarosh.
After Afzal mowed the lawn on Monday, grass clippings had been left on Sarosh’s property. The security camera footage shows Sarosh and his wife discussing the clippings. Then Sarosh crosses his driveway to knock on the defendant’s door. While Afzal stood in his doorway, the footage shows Sarosh motioning toward the lawn and talking. There was no audio of the incident, but according to the complaint, Sarosh appeared relaxed and carried on a normal conversation. He did “not appear to be shouting or raising his voice.” He “makes no sudden moves,” the complaint said. Both his hands were in his pockets.
Suddenly Afzal raises a gun and points it at Sarosh. He shoots Sarosh, who is still facing him, head on. Sarosh turns and runs, and Afzal steps outside and fires another shot in the victim’s back. While Sarosh is still on his feet, running away, Afzal stops to examine his gun, remaining outside his house with his back turned to where Sarosh was last seen.
When police arrived, they found Sarosh’s body in the front door of his house with his back resting on the stoop. Life-saving measures were unsuccessful.
Photo © Milwaukee Police Department
Afzal confessed to the crime, telling police that when Sarosh knocked, he came to the door carrying his gun. The defendant went on to say that because Sarosh had his hands in his pockets, he thought he had a gun. However, he admitted that Sarosh never displayed a weapon. Afzal told police he fired the gun to “scare away the victim.”
According to the complaint, Afzal changed his clothes after shooting Sarosh and waited for police to arrive. Afzal “knew they would be coming for him,” the complaint said.
At the grave site, Sarosh’s friends and family lift his shrouded body into the grave. A concrete pad is lowered onto the body by a crane, and then the men take shovels and cover the grave with earth. It all takes just a few minutes.
Once the grave is covered, there are more prayers and chants.
Four imams attended Monday’s burial service, Dr. Zulfiqar Shah and Qari Noman Hussain of ISM, Hafiz Muhammad Shafique of Masjid Al-Quran, and Mohammed Saleem Shazad Mughal, a friend of the family.
After the prayers, Alia, the young widow, is helped to the grave by her aunts and women friends. The group of women sit at the grave, Alia reaching out her hand to touch the earth.
Birjis Khawaja, who was attending the funeral said, “I have known Naeem’s family for over a decade. This young and kind couple have always invited us during the summer for barbecues and for parties during the winter. Naeem’s barbecue parties were very famous among his co-workers and friends. Naeem was a loving husband, doting father, and respected community member.
We will truly miss his smiling face, his many jokes and laughter and his tremendous hospitality. All we can do now is pray for him and his family.”
Naeem Sarosh’s uncle, Mohammed Akhter, said that Naeem and his brother Waseem joined the police department and became CSOs because they felt it would be less dangerous than armed police work. Community Service Officers respond to non-emergency calls for service, including theft, non-injury traffic accidents, or vandalism, the MPD Office of Public Relations said in an email. Naeem Sarosh had been an MPD employee for 4 years. Akhter said Waseem and Naeem came here from Pakistan when they were teens. He described the young men as “strivers.”
Waseem Sarosh, the younger brother of the deceased, said, “We’re holding up. We’ll get through this, with family.”
A friend who lives a few blocks from the victim’s family, Cindi Herzog, watched Waseem Sarosh’s little girls during the burial. She said Naeem and his family had been at her house only last Friday to swim in her pool.
Acting MPD Chief Michael Brunson, who was at the crime scene last Monday, called Naeem Sarosh “a beloved and respected employee.” Mayor Tom Barrett said the senseless act “should disturb us all.”
A GoFundMe page established for the family has thus far raised more than $25,000.