The burial for a slain Albanian immigrant woman briefly turned into a news conference Thursday as several of her relatives directed comments toward reporters who had followed them to a Las Vegas cemetery.
Before Deshira Selimaj’s coffin was lowered into the ground, family friend Fisnik Bojku invited members of the news media to approach. He then introduced the relatives and acted as their interpreter.
Selimaj’s brother, Flamur Luzi, traveled from Albania for her memorial service and burial. He described her as a “very respected mother.”
The 42-year-old woman, who left behind three sons, was fatally shot Feb. 12 by a Henderson police officer.
Zyber Selimaj, the woman’s 65-year-old husband, described her as a “housewife” whose life revolved around her home and family.
Regardless of the circumstances surrounding her death, he said Thursday, their children “have to grow up without a mother.”
In a short time, Bojku said in summarizing the widower’s statement, police “destroyed his life; they destroyed his family.”
Bojku, a Las Vegas resident, said Zyber Selimaj spent 22 years in a communist prison in Albania for speaking out against the government.
“He wanted always the freedom of the people,” Bojku told reporters at Bunkers Eden Vale Memorial Park on North Las Vegas Boulevard.
When Albania’s borders opened, Bojku said, Zyber Selimaj decided to move to the United States. Zyber and Deshira Selimaj, who were naturalized U.S. citizens, operated an ice cream truck business.
“All we know is they were good people, and that’s why we’re here to pay respects to them,” Bojku said.
Before the burial, about 50 people gathered at the Islamic Society of Nevada on East Desert Inn Road for a memorial service in honor of Deshira Selimaj.
The woman’s husband, brother, father, sons and other relatives stood beside her coffin as the service began with recordings of Arabic singers.
One of the boys left the service for a time with his mother’s sister-in-law; later, several adults escorted all three boys out of the room.
Like her brother and sister-in-law, Deshira Selimaj’s father, Sherif Luzi, traveled from Albania for the service. Albania is located east of Italy, across the Adriatic Sea.
Henderson resident William Christo was among those who attended the service. He said he moved to the United States from Albania at age 5.
“I don’t know these people,” he said. “I’m just a fellow Albanian who is concerned about the behavior of police officers.”
The man, who is Christian, said Albania and the United States have a common characteristic: “It’s a multitude of religions that respect each other.”
He added: “We don’t fight with each other. We respect each other.”
Aslam Abdullah, director of the Islamic Society of Nevada, led the memorial service for Deshira Selimaj. He talked about the inevitability of death, which he described as “a movement from one world to another world.”
“We came from God, and to him we will go back,” Abdullah said.
He assured Deshira Selimaj’s loved ones that “she is in the best possible hands that one can imagine.”
“We must realize that she is going back to her home,” he said.
The service concluded with a Muslim funeral prayer, with the men standing in front of the women.
Attorney James Jimmerson, who represents the Selimaj family, also was among those who attended the service. He said he plans to monitor the coroner’s inquest, which has been scheduled for April 11, and give representatives of the district attorney’s office any assistance they need to ensure that the coroner’s jury will make an appropriate decision.
The jury will be asked to decide whether the shooting was justifiable.
“Unlike many coroner’s inquests, we anticipate that there will be several eyewitnesses who will be offering conflicting testimony to that we anticipate will be given by police, specifically disputing police allegations that the shooting was justified or warranted,” Jimmerson said.
He said the Selimaj family will decide after the inquest whether to file a lawsuit in connection with the death.
“We believe that excess force was utilized and that the shooting was not justified,” the lawyer said. “We join with the district attorney’s office in attempting to learn the true facts of this very tragic event.”
Deshira Selimaj came to the aid of her husband on the day of the shooting after Henderson police had stopped his ice cream truck at an intersection near Coronado High School. Police had accused him of speeding and failing to obey a stop sign.
After Zyber Selimaj was stopped, police said, he became combative. Then his wife showed up in another ice cream truck with her 5-year-old and 11-year-old sons. Her 7-year-old son was not present.
Police said both the husband and the wife made suicidal statements during the stop. At one point, police said, Deshira Selimaj emerged from her ice cream truck with a knife and held it to the throat of one of her children.
Officers removed the boy from his mother and tried to subdue her with stun guns, police said, but she retained the knife and lunged toward an officer.
Officer Luke Morrison, 23, shot and killed the woman.
Jimmerson said multiple witnesses saw no knife at the scene and say Deshira Selimaj was on her knees when she was killed.
Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at firstname.lastname@example.org or (702) 383-0264.