Teacher’s death stuns Clint Small campus
Oak Hill Gazette
OAK HILL – Grief counselors were on hand at Clint Small Middle School on Thursday to help students deal with the death of technology teacher Riad Hamad. His body was found Wednesday in Lady Bird Lake near Festival Beach.
Hamad taught keyboarding, a required class, at Clint Small since the school opened in 1998. Virtually every student who has attended Small has had him as teacher.
Hamad was born in Lebanon and came to Austin in 1970 to attend UT Austin. He joked that he had never actually left UT and was in fact a professional student, having attained three Bachelor’s degrees and four Master’s; he was reportedly working on his fifth.
Hamad was a teacher by profession, teaching Business Education and Keyboarding to middle school students. Hamad claimed he was fired from his job at Austin Community College for speaking out against the government.
He was the co-founder of the Palestinian Children’s Welfare Fund, an Islamic children’s charity with a stated goal “to improve the living standards of the children of Palestine.” Hamad said in interviews that Homeland Security and the FBI had interviewed family and friends about this pastime, apparently suspicious of his activities.
An e-mail (posted on the website wearewideawake.org) Hamad sent to friends in February said, “We had a very unpleasant visit from the FBI and IRS agents yesterday morning and they walked out with more than 40 boxes of tax returns, forms, documents, books, flags, cds, etc. The special agent said that they have a probable cause for money laundering, wire fraud, bank fraud, etc., and I think that all of it stems from more than 35 years of watching me.” Hamad reportedly asked for assistance because he had no money for legal help.
The U.S. government has been vigilant in making certain that money for terrorists is not going overseas in the guise of charity. There is no evidence that Hamad’s charity was doing anything other than helping Palestinian children.
In an April 6 e-mail to friends, Hamad said he had been receiving late night phone calls from someone asking, “Where is your camel?” The night before he reported someone ringing his doorbell at 1:30 am. The dogs in the neighborhood barked, but no one was at the door when Hamad answered. He asked his friends, “It makes me wonder … what have I done wrong?”
Hamad is survived by two adult children: a daughter, Rita, and a son, Abdullah. According to investigators in the case, Hamad’s family said he had been very stressed, and had said he had suicidal thoughts. Detectives said they are still looking into all possible causes of death, autopsy results are not expected for several weeks.
Ladybird Lake body appeared gagged, bound
CBS 42 Reporter: Gregg Watson
Last Update: 4/16 11:00 pm
Witnesses found a man’s body floating in Ladybird Lake Wednesday, bound and gagged.
The body was recovered at Festival Beach at I-35 and Nash Hernandez Road about 2 p.m.
Police call it a suspicious death.
The man’s hands tied with what looked like rope, and his mouth covered with what witnesses describe as duct tape.
Festival Beach is the pride of the East Cesar Chavez neighborhood. It’s a place where groups go for walks, friends play Frisbee, and dogs take their owners for a run.
Lori Renteria uses the park as a place where she posts the neighborhood newsletter.
“This is highly unusual,” says Renteria, the chair of the East Cesar Chavez Neighborhood Association. “This is a well-traveled hike-and-bike trail. You can see people with families and dogs and bikes and walkers up until 10 o’clock at night.”
Police were at the scene into the evening Friday.
A woman walking her dog made the disturbing discovery.
“It’s a man, with a bald spot, and he has duct tape across his mouth, like wrapped up,” said witness Brittany Mooney. “The police said he was wanted by the FBI. He was the person from yesterday they were trying to find.”
“The fact that there’s a body floating in Town Lake,” said Public Information Officer James Mason with the Austin Police Department. “That’s unusual, so that does make it suspicious.”
“There’s a lot of homeless people, here,” said Phil Clark a fisherman on Ladybird Lake. “And a lot of things go on. So you’ve got to be careful.”
No one knows how or where the man entered Ladybird Lake — or why his hands and mouth appeared to bound and gagged.
Man Found Dead in Lake Claimed FBI Tracked Him
KLBJ News Radio
last modified: 4/17/2008 8:53:06 PM
The man found floating in Lady Bird Lake Wednesday afternoon claimed on a videotape that he was being targeted by federal agents because he ran the Palestine Children’s Welfare Fund out of south Austin.
“All of our work is very transparent. We don’t work with any militant group or violent group, or anybody with a militant affiliation,” said Riad Hamad, in a 2003 interview with freespeech TV.
In the 19-minute interview, found online, Hamad says several shipments of used books and clothing had been returned to his home address and on at least one occasion, a neighbor who signed for a package was questioned by a federal agent.
“We were hacked really bad,” Hamad said. “We called the FBI and they said this is cost of business and would not do anything to help. There were like three different people who gave information about me that I only know.”
In the video, Hamad says he held several degrees, including Bachelor’s and Master’s, from the University of Texas and was in the process of completing another.
“I don’t have an affiliation,” he says on the video. “I’ve been here since 1970. I was never involved in any militant or group that would hurt anybody… something violent.”
Austin Police Thursday afternoon preliminarily ruled his death a suicide. Hamad’s body was found floating in Lady Bird Lake and had been bound with duct tape. Police say the binding was in a manner which he could have done it to himself.
An Interview with Riad Hamad
Riad Hamad is a non-violent activist in Austin, Texas. He holds multiple Master’s degrees and has never been arrested. He is now under surveillance by the FBI because he organized the shipment of books to Palestinian children. He speaks about the impact FBI attacks have had on his family, his freedoms, and his perception of America.
Police: Man found in the lake was Austin teacher
Posted: April 16, 2008 02:58 PM
Updated: April 17, 2008 09:53 PM
AUSTIN, Texas (KXAN) — Police on Thursday identified a man who was found bound with duct tape in Lady Bird Lake in East Austin.
Parkgoers discovered the body of Riad Hamad, 55, Wednesday afternoon just east of the Interstate 35 bridge near Festival Beach.
Hamad was a computer teacher at Small Middle School and had been planning a trip to Palestine to teach children there.
Witnesses who found Hamad said the man had duct tape on his face, and his hands were
Police have called the death suspicious. Investigators on Thursday said family and other sources have told them that Hamad was suicidal. Read the news release from APD.
“Right now, the indications are that this was not, there was not foul play involved,” said police Sgt. Joseph Chacon. “The bindings, although I can’t go into them extensively, I can tell you that it is possible that he could have done this to himself.”
Hamad’s death was announced to students Thursday. Student Sara Fulton said Hamad was a good teacher and a nice man. She said she was devastated when she found out that he was dead.
Riad’s Last Phone Call?
written by Paul Larudee, April 19, 2008
Riad Hamad, 1952-2008
“Hi, Riad.” I knew it was him from the caller ID, even though the phone had never been in his own name.
“Hey, Bolos. How you doin’?” He used the Arabic translation of my name.
“I’m good. How about you?”
“I’m OK.” His voice didn’t have the usual energy, but perhaps he was in a place where he couldn’t speak loudly. “I sent you a couple of email messages.”
“Yes, I saw them.” The messages were about my role in helping with his charitable work on behalf of Palestinians. There were a few things I didn’t understand about the messages, so Riad cleared them up for me. “Now it makes sense,” I said.
“OK. Well, that’s all I wanted to tell you.” Typical Riad. Always in a hurry to get off the phone.
“Wait, I’ve got some good news!”
“Oh yeah? What is it?” He sounded surprised.
“We’re finally getting donations here. A check for a thousand came in today.” I had set up a nonprofit account to receive donations for Riad’s work.
“Was it from __________?”
“Hang on a second.”
“Well, it doesn’t matter.” Still anxious to get off the phone.
“What do you mean it doesn’t matter? I’ve got the name right here. No, it’s from ____________ .”
“That’s nice. Well, gotta go.”
“OK. Take care of yourself.”
“You, too, Boulos.”
Those were apparently Riad’s last words, spoken from his car near Ladybird Lake in Austin, Texas. At the time I had thought it slightly odd that Riad was repeating what he had already told me by email. I think he just wanted to hear a familiar voice. The police found the phone and car keys on the seat of the unlocked car. Typical Riad. He was thinking of the person who would find the car.
I wish I had told him that the person who sent the check had also written a letter thanking him for the gifts of handmade Palestinian crafts and other items that Riad had sent as a thankyou for a previous donation. He had also included handmade thankyou cards from his two young daughters. The older daughter, age 11 had written, “Live in peace on the world. Everybody should LOVE! I am sad because people should be nice to you, but they are not.” The younger, age 8, had written, “I hope you start to live in peace.”
I would have read them to him over the phone if he hadn’t been so anxious to end the conversation, but I decided to send them for him to read later, and enjoy the children’s drawings. The father’s letter was longer and more specific in his praise for Riad’s tireless efforts on behalf of Palestinians and their rights.
“I have included 2 checks for the needs of Palestinian children. It is my hope that you will use it to create hope for those oppressed. As we both see the dollar’s value sink, the value of life especially in the eyes of the Creator never loses value. I extend this help to you and these children as if they were my own. We have the misfortune in living in very dark times, but in that darkness hope, love, and peace shine like the sun. To those that plant hope, they shall harvest peace.”
Harvest peace, Riad.
SHUKRAN for your work and support
Treasurer and Grants Administrator
The Palestine Children’s Welfare Fund
Riad’s legacy, the Palestine Children’s Welfare Fund lives on, providing food, medicine, jobs and education to Palestinians and their children. Tax-exempt donations may be made to:
405 Vista Heights Road
El Cerrito, CA 94530
In response to a question put by the Texas Civil Rights Review, Paul Larudee recalls, “It was the evening of the 14th. I think it was around 7:30 Pacific time.”
Authorities identify man found in Lady Bird Lake
By Sue Banerjee and Tony Plohetski
Thursday, April 17, 2008, 01:58 PM
Officials today identified a man found Wednesday in Lady Bird Lake as 55-year-old Riad Hamad, a teacher at Austin’s Small Middle School.
Hamad’s body was found near Rendon Park at Festival Beach.
Austin police homicide Sgt. Joe Chacon said investigators do not suspect foul play and that Hamad’s death may be ruled a suicide.
However, he said detectives were not ruling out other possibilities. Chacon said that Hamad’s hands had been bound but declined to elaborate.
Hamad’s family released a statement saying that Hamad had gone to pick up prescription medication from a local pharmacy Monday night. Family alerted police when he did not return home.
Witnesses reported seeing Hamad walk from his vehicle to the lake, according to police. Chacon said Hamad’s family has told investigators that he had “stressors in life” and talked about suicide.
Police said joggers found Hamad’s body near Comal Street and Nash Hernandez Sr. Road at about 12:15 p.m. Wednesday. Investigators initially said they were treating the death as suspicious.
Hamad’s body has been taken to the Travis County Medical Examiner’s Office for an autopsy, which could take several weeks.
Hamad was a University of Texas graduate and was pursuing a graduate degree in educational technology. He was a peace activist and director of the Palestine Children’s Welfare Fund. Hamad is survived by his partner of 27 years and his two children.