Police investigate deaths of 2 brothers found inside Evanston tobacco shop

July 31, 2013 (EVANSTON, Ill.)

Police questioned passersby on the Evanston street Wednesday night, to see if they knew anything about what happened there on Tuesday night.

Thirty-eight-year-old Azim Hakeem and his brother, 34-year-old Mobeen were found dead Tuesday night. Customers say they were fixtures in their family's tobacco shop in downtown Evanston.

"I really can't believe that someone would do this thing to this family," said Qudrat Syed, victims' uncle.

ABC7 Chicago is told the men's mother went to the shop when her sons did not show up for Ramadan services at her house Tuesday evening. She got suspicious and reportedly went to police when she saw the store's "open" sign on with the doors padlocked and lights off.

"On their arrival, they break the lock. They went inside and when they went down to the basement, they found both were victimized, multiple gunshot wounds on them," said Syed.

Evanston police discovered the bodies at approximately 8:30 p.m. in the basement of the store, which is located near CTA and Metra stops in the heart of downtown Evanston.

"My family was in a state of shock, really, losing two boys in the family. People are shocked to know about this tragedy," said Syed.

Relatives say the brothers have roots in India, but they were born and raised in Evanston and attended Evanston Township High School.

The brothers were not married and did not have children. They had devoted their lives to the family tobacco shop, which they were running for their father who has a physical disability. Some customers said the younger brother had special needs and did not speak very much.

"The boys were wonderful, beautiful boys, and believe me, they have very tight [ties] to their family," Syed said.

According to relatives, the last transaction made at the store was at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, but it was unclear when the crime happened.

The North Regional Major Crimes Task Force was on the scene Wednesday, along with Evanston police, investigating. Forensics teams were seen going in and out of the business, some in white coveralls.

The crime has stunned customers, who say the family was friendly but low-key.

"It's shocking because they seem so innocent. I think the store has been here for decades, as long as I've been here. Twenty, thirty years," said Debra Poneman, customer.

"The neighborhood is peaceful. You don't hear about stuff like this in Evanston. It's a surprise and a tragedy," said Shondell Coleman, customer.

Their sister provided a statement on behalf of the Hakeem family that was posted on the door of their Evanston home: "My brothers were gentle, humble men who did not deserve anything like this. Both were great brothers, sons, nephews, and cousins. . . We would like the Evanston Police Department to be respectful of our culture and religion and be more transparent with their information."

"I know things like this happen everywhere, but you don't expect it to happen in your neighborhood," area resident Stuart Whitman said.

"That's just terrible. I just can't believe it. I think this is a safe neighborhood," said Courtney Krueger, also a neighbor.

Evanston Police are not releasing much information, but they did say there does not appear to be any sign of a robbery and that they are classifying it as a death investigation.

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