Afghan Refugees

Sacramento teen sentenced for blinding Afghan emigre in 2015 flare gun attack

The woman from victim services ducked into the courthouse’s waiting room and said simply, “We’re ready.”

Three years after he was robbed of sight in his left eye by a blast from a teenage attacker’s flare gun; after his dreams of a new, safer life in America for himself and his family were irreparably changed, Faisal Razmal was, too. He clutched a small tote bag, an American flag printed on its front, and with a cluster of friends walked into the courtroom to face his attacker for the last time.

Renardo Dejour Williams, 18, was sentenced Thursday in Sacramento County Juvenile Court on charges connected to the night in August 2015 when he shot Razmal, a former interpreter for U.S. and Canadian forces and a father of three.

Judge Judy Hersher ordered Williams held in state’s juvenile custody until he turns 25. In May, Williams agreed to plead guilty to felony mayhem and illegal use of a firearm – a deal that spared the 18-year-old a 19-year prison term. Williams has been held in Sacramento County juvenile custody since his 2015 arrest.

“It’s important to give him the opportunity to turn around for the benefit of everybody including himself,” Hersher said from the bench, before directly addressing the young Williams: “I’m taking a bit of a chance on you. I think you can do this. You can turn yourself around, but if you don’t, there will be consequences.”

Williams, wearing the bright green shirt designating him a juvenile hall youth mentor, later turned his chair toward the gallery and offered an apology to Razmal.

“I know no man deserves what happened to you. It’s unfortunate what happened to you. It’s a tragedy that never should have happened. It’s very shameful,” Williams said. “If I could change anything, it would be this.”

But, today, Razmal, his wife and family continue to struggle in their new country in the aftermath of the shooting – struggles they share with more than 2,000 other Afghans who have resettled in Sacramento County since 2010 and spotlighted in The Bee’s special investigative series, “No Safe Place.”

Raznal was 28 and had just finished a shift as a security guard at a shopping mall when he saw Williams and others shake down other Afghans in his apartment complex for cell phones and cash. He was shot in the face when he tried to intervene.

Pain, PTSD, emotional and financial struggles followed – and continue – Razmal said in the waiting room before Williams’ sentencing.

“Before I came to the U.S., I came with a lot of hopes. Unfortunately, because of this guy, it’s made me slow down in my life. Too much struggling, too much problems, but I don’t want to give up,” he said. “My family’s struggling financially. Day by day, things get worse. Hopefully, things will get better.”

Razmal had served for years alongside U.S. and Canadian military forces in his native Afghanistan, translating, mission planning, offering vital intelligence to soldiers in the field in the war against the Taliban and ISIS fighters. He saved lives by detecting Taliban fighters who donned the uniforms of Afghan troops and placed his own life in jeopardy time and again.

When the Taliban threatened the lives of Razmal and his family, the U.S. government helped him with the special visas needed to flee. The troops he served alongside persuaded Razmal and his family to come to the United States.

In October 2014, they did, his friend William Blount, said in a victim impact statement.

“Faisal describes our U.S. military he served with as friends,” Blount said from the courtroom’s witness stand, as Razmal sat, arms folded, in the front row of the gallery, the American flag tote bag in his lap. “He hoped he and his wife could raise their family in America, a safe place.”