The son of the man suspected of killing at least two Muslim men in New Mexico in recent months may also have played a role in the crimes, authorities alleged in court documents filed last week.
In a preliminary hearing on Monday, Judge John F. Robbenhaar elected to detain Shaheen Syed, a son of Muhammad Syed, pending trial after listening to evidence brought against him by federal prosecutors. Robbenhaar ultimately found that Syed "represents a danger to the community."
Syed was already in custody and is facing separate charges after he was arrested on Tuesday for allegedly putting an incorrect address in a firearms transaction record for a weapon he bought last year.
Syed's father, Muhammad Syed, is a suspect in the killing of Naeem Hussain, 25, on Aug. 5 and the slaying of Mohammad Ahmadi, 62, on Nov. 7. Authorities are still investigating those cases, and he has not been charged with the murders.
In documents filed by the U.S. attorney's office on Friday, prosecutors claim evidence ties Shaheen Syed, also known as Maiwand, to those murders. That evidence was brought before the court in Monday's hearing.
This evidence includes cell tower data, which connect his phone to his father's and place them both near where Naeem Hussain was murdered this month. There is also evidence that Syed had "short and frequent communications with his father both before and after the murder of Naeem Hussain," the documents say.
"Telephone calls between Muhammad Atif Syed and the defendant would be consistent with quick surveillance calls, both before and after the shooting," according to the U.S. attorney's office. "And there appears to be no logical reason for the defendant to have just happened to have been in the vicinity of the murder scene so shortly after Mr. Hussain was murdered."
Investigators also found a pistol in Syed's bedroom when they executed a search warrant at the family home. It was not made clear whether the weapon is connected in any way to the two murders.
In court, an attorney for Syed argued that federal prosecutors are attempting to detain his client for a crime he has not been charged with based off of a cursory investigation.
"The United States’ motion boils down to an effort to detain Defendant for a crime with which he has not even been charged," attorney John C. Anderson said in a response to the initial federal motion. "If the United States or the State of New Mexico does not have sufficient evidence even to charge Defendant with any involvement in the murders, Defendant should not be detained based on supposed involvement in those murders."
Anderson said Syed and his father’s sharing an interest in firearms in addition to cell tower data that does not say exactly how close he was to the scene of the recent murder “is hardly clear and convincing" evidence.
The court documents also refer to Syed as a “serial liar.” Investigators alleged that he lied several times, citing the incident in which Syed allegedly used an incorrect address while purchasing a firearm.
Highlighting his alleged dishonesty in court on Monday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly Brawley said Syed told law enforcement officials early last week after the search of his family’s residence that he had not been in the Volkswagen Jetta linked to his father at gun stores recently, which authorities said was determined to be false.
“Defendant’s propensity for dishonesty should undermine the Court’s confidence that he will be forthright with any probation officer tasked with supervising him on any form of pretrial release," the court documents say.
Syed's past run-ins with law enforcement were also cited as reasons to detain him in documents and in court.
Police responded to a call earlier this year about a domestic violence incident in which Syed was alleged to have hit his 16-year-old sister and his father. His father, who had blood all over his face, said he tried to prevent Syed from hitting his sister, which resulted in Syed’s striking him in the face, according to the documents.
The daughter did not cooperate with police, and she told them she did not know what happened, while the father opted to press charges against Syed. The police report on this incident also mentions that Syed had previously allegedly hit his sister "to the point she was in the hospital and taken into custody by CYFD (Children Youth & Families Department)."
Officers issued Syed a summons to appear in court on a criminal charge of "battery on a household member," but he failed to appear, they said. A bench warrant issued for Syed on April 4 remains outstanding.
Anderson said he never received the summons or the complaint, according to court documents.
His father was also implicated in troubling domestic violence incidents, including one in a state office building, court documents show.
Another incident prosecutors characterized as "road rage" in July 2021 was also submitted as evidence against Syed by prosecutors.
In the incident, Syed and his brother were in a car in a Walmart parking lot in Albuquerque when a the driver of a black sedan "brake checked" them, then flashed a firearm. Syed, who was driving the car, allowed his brother to step out of the passenger side and shoot at the black sedan before quickly driving away, the court heard.
No charges were brought against Syed or his brother in this incident, according to court documents.
Syed now has the right to appeal the order to detain him to a district judge, but his attorney told NBC News on Tuesday that he hasn't made a final decision yet.