When a fire broke out in his home just after midnight Saturday, 37-year-old Esam Musleh died trying to save his 1-year-old daughter from the flames, California officials say.
“The father and the child were found together,” Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong told KPIX. “And so it’s really sad, but the father is a hero. He sacrificed his life.”
The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Oakland police and fire departments, Alameda County Arson Task Force and the county District Attorney’s Office are investigating the blaze as a suspected arson, The East Bay Times reported.
Musleh’s pregnant wife escaped the blaze but is hospitalized with burns. The family came to the United States from war-ravaged Yemen.
“We run from Yemen because of the war,” Mohammed Alsamma, a cousin who also lived in the home, told KPIX. “We thought we are safe here. But death followed us to this place.”
Abdul Alsamma told KNTV he had been at work as a security guard when he learned about the 12:14 a.m. blaze at his home. He said he smelled gasoline and found all the exterior doors on fire, but managed to rescue some family members.
Musleh and his daughter, Alia, were found dead in an upstairs bedroom, according to the station.
Police and fire officials believe the blaze may be connected to a series of shootings and fires stemming from an April 10 fatal shooting inside a liquor store, The East Bay Times reported.
Dejoh Woods, 25, was gunned down by another customer at Booker’s Grocery Liquor, according to the publication.
A shooting Monday at a different liquor store and a fire Wednesday at Booker’s Grocery Liquor are believed to be related to his death, The San Francisco Chronicle reported.
A reward of $40,000 has been offered for the arrest of those responsible for the arson fire early Saturday, The East Bay Times reported.
Mohammed Alsamma said Musleh was a clerk at Booker’s Grocery Liquor but had nothing to do with the shooting, which involved a dispute between two customers, KNTV reported.
“It’s really sad that in our community that someone would do something so heinous, as in setting a home on fire in the middle of the night and killing an innocent family,” Armstrong told KPIX.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Oakland Police Department homicide section at 510-238-3821 or the department’s tip line at 510-238-7950 or the Crime Stoppers of Oakland tip line 510-777-8572.