Shaking with Fear,

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From a verbal report given by Harold Howard to Kurt Castaldo, a deputy in the sheriff’s office in Palm Beach County, Florida, in December 2015. Howard alleged that Yousef Muslet had assaulted him. Muslet maintained that he was shaking Howard’s hand. Muslet was charged with burglary and battery on an elderly person; he was acquitted last year.

harold howard: I was at my pastor’s house, Eric Stevenson, with Pat Lucey, who is also a preacher. We went and got in my truck and started driving out. There was a bunch of kids standing and playing, throwing the ball back and forth, and one on a bicycle. I blew my horn and they all just stand there and gawk at me. I noticed a man walking up to my truck so I rolled down my window, I thought maybe he had something he needed to tell me.

deputy castaldo: Can you describe the male subject?

howard: Probably about five ten. Weighed about 170 pounds. Full-face beard.

castaldo: And what happened?

howard: Well, he says, What’s your name? So I told him my name, and he said, What religion are you? I said, I’m Christian. He said, What do you believe in? I said I believe in God and Jesus Christ as my savior. And I said, What about you? Because I thought he was just joking with me, because I came out of the pastor’s house. And he said, I believe in Allah. And I said, That’s good, you can have Allah, I don’t want him. And he said, I’ve been thinking about coming down to your church and showing everybody why they should be a believer of Allah. And I said, Well you’re welcome to the church, but don’t bring Allah with you, just leave him out.

castaldo: At this point, what were your feelings about the male subject?

howard: I knew he looked a little weird because I’m not used to a full-face-beard man. Then it dawned on me: he’s gotta be a Muslim. Right then my fear just doubled. Then I thought, well, he’s not gonna kill me because he doesn’t have a gun in his hand but I didn’t know exactly what he wanted, so I said, I gotta get out of here. Well, he stuck his hand through my window, and I figured he wanted to shake hands or apologize. So I put my hand out, and as soon as I did, he yanked it. My arm was across my body. I was helpless.

castaldo: How far out the window?

howard: I got to the window because what I wanted to do was turn his hand over and bang it on the glass. Then I thought, well, I better not do that, because this guy’s serious, he’ll kill me. Then finally he realized the seriousness in my voice and he let go. I was about to drive off. I told him, I said, Get your kids out of the road. He looked at the kids and hollered, Get out of the road, he’s gonna kill ya. Before they got out of the road, this little girl turned to me from the middle of the road. And I tell you what, I’ve never been scared of an eleven-year-old girl. But this girl had evil in her eyes — you could see it, the hate. The hair on the back of my neck raised up.

castaldo: And when he had a hold of your hand and you tried to take his hand off, how was your fear?

howard: It was tops. It was number ten. I’m seventy-five years old. And once I realized who he was and what he was trying to do about God, Jesus Christ, my fear really came up.

castaldo: Do you think the fear for your life and safety was paramount at that point?

howard: Yes, that’s why I kept watching his other hand, to see if it went under his shirt for a gun. You never know. If he’s stupid enough to do something like this, he’s stupid enough to shoot me.