Woman tried to drown 3-year-old girl after making racist comments, civil rights group says

The Council on American-Islamic Relations is calling on authorities to investigate a suspected hate crime incident in Texas after a woman was charged with trying to drown a Muslim child at an apartment complex pool last month.

Elizabeth Wolf, 42, has been charged with attempted capital murder and injury to a child after she tried to drown a 3-year-old girl in an apartment pool on May 19, according to the Euless Police Department. Mustafaa Carroll, executive director of the Texas chapter of CAIR, said the attack occurred after Wolf made racist comments to the girl's mother, who was wearing a hijab, an Islamic head covering.

"CAIR-Texas ... calls upon state and federal law enforcement authorities to investigate an allegedly biased, motivated murder attempt targeting Muslim children in Euless, Texas, as a hate crime, and to take all precautions to keep the family safe and the Muslim community safe," Carroll said at a news conference Saturday.

In addition to a hate crime inquiry, Carroll said CAIR-Texas is asking for a higher bail bond and an "open conversation with officials to address this alarming increase in Islamophobia, anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian sentiment."

Wolf was initially arrested on a charge of public intoxication, Euless police said. Wolf was able to bail herself out of jail the day after her arrest, Carroll said.

After further investigation, the Tarrant County District Attorney's Office filed the charges of attempted capital murder and injury to a child on May 23, The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.

Euless is a city in Tarrant County and a suburb of Dallas and Fort Worth.

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'My daughter is traumatized'

Officers responded to an apartment complex pool at around 5:44 p.m. on May 19 after a disturbance was reported between two women, according to Euless police. Witnesses told officers a woman "who was very intoxicated" had tried to drown a child and argued with the child’s mother, police said.

Officers tried to contact the woman, who was identified as Wolf, as she tried to leave. She was then arrested on suspicion of public intoxication, police said.

Carroll said the mother, whom he referred to as Mrs. H, was watching her two children in the shallow end of the pool when Wolf entered the area and approached the mother while making racist statements. The mother told detectives Wolf asked where she was from and wanted to know whether the two children were hers, police said.

Police said the mother reported that Wolf then tried to grab her 6-year-old son but he pulled away, which caused a scratch on his finger. When the mother began helping her son, Wolf grabbed the daughter "and forced her underwater," according to police.

CAIR-Texas said Wolf also took the mother's hijab and used it to hit her as well as "kicking her to keep her away while forcing her daughter’s head underwater." Police said the mother was able to pull her daughter from the water as the 3-year-old yelled for help and was coughing up water.

The mother told CAIR-Texas that a man helped her rescue her daughter as others gathered and witnessed the incident. Medics evaluated both children, who were medically cleared, police said.

"Cuffed and taken away by the police officer, the attacker reportedly shouted to a bystander woman who was calming the mother down 'Tell her I will kill her, and I will kill her whole family,'" CAIR-Texas said in a news release.

At the news conference Saturday, Carroll read a statement from the mother, who said her family is originally from the Palestinian territories but are American citizens.

"I don’t know where to go to feel safe with my kids. My country is facing a war, and we are facing that hate here," the mother wrote. "My daughter is traumatized; whenever I open the apartment door, she runs away and hides, telling me she is afraid the lady will come and immerse her head in the water again."

The mother added that her husband's job has been "jeopardized" after he had to leave work to accompany her and their four children for appointments and errands. CAIR-Texas has established a GoFundMe page to help support the family.

Rise in hate crimes against Muslims

In CAIR's 2023 report, the organization recorded 8,061 complaints nationwide last year. That figure is the highest number of complaints ever recorded by CAIR in the organization's 30-year history, according to Carroll.

Nearly half of those complaints − 3,578 − occurred in the last three months of 2023, Carroll said. CAIR reported that the "primary force behind this wave of heightened Islamophobia was the escalation of violence in Israel and Palestine in October 2023."

Complaints included immigration and asylum cases, employment discrimination, education discrimination, and hate crimes and incidents. Though complaints frequently were called in, some cases were documented by CAIR staff from news articles and other sources.

"Behind these numbers are human tragedies, and children appear to be the prime targets," Carroll said at the news conference.

He cited incidents that have occurred since last fall, including a 6-year-old Muslim boy who was stabbed and killed by his family's landlord in suburban Chicago. In December 2023, a Georgia middle school teacher was arrested after he was accused of threatening to behead a 13-year-old Muslim student.

Contributing: Krystal Nurse

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Woman accused of trying to drown 3-year-old in possible hate crime