Two Armenian-American teenagers were allegedly shot at on Tuesday evening — the 103-year anniversary of the Armenian genocide — while driving on the 14 Freeway in Santa Clarita in what the driver claims was a hate crime.
Harry Nalbandyan, 19, said he and his 17-year-old sister Christina were on their way home from their uncle’s birthday party around 11:30 p.m. when the driver of a silver Honda CRV came up behind their car, flashed its headlights, rolled down his window and started shooting at them.
According to the local CBS affiliate in Los Angeles, their truck was hit at least eight times by 45-caliber rounds that were lodged in the car’s seat and head rest.
“We’re lucky we’re live,” Harry told CBS. “He kept shooting. This guy just wanted to finish it off; get one of us killed.”
He said he believes they were targeted because of a large Armenian flag he had draped on the back of his truck to mark the 103-year anniversary of the Armenian genocide, when 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks in 1915.
Tens of thousands of people marched through the streets of Hollywood and Los Angeles on Tuesday to commemorate the anniversary of the genocide.
The U.S. has not formally recognized the Armenian genocide, largely in deference to Turkey’s status as a NATO ally.
President Donald Trump’s statement on the anniversary carefully avoided the term “genocide”: “Today we commemorate the Meds Yeghern, one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th century, when one and a half million Armenians were deported, massacred, or marched to their deaths in the final years of the Ottoman Empire. We recall the horrific events of 1915 and grieve for the lives lost and the many who suffered.”
CBS said the suspect in the alleged shooting is described as a man in his 20s to 30s with short, curly hair.