Oakland: Father, daughter mourned as cops probe crime spree

Aliyah would have turned 2 next month. She was just beginning to walk and talk.

Her father, Esam Nagi Moslah, 37, tried to save her from an arson fire that tore through their East Oakland home over the weekend and jolted neighbors awake.

"I just heard an incredibly loud boom, which woke me up and scared me," said a neighbor who did not want to be identified.

Father and daughter both died, and Oakland police say their deaths are homicides - and part of a apparent gang-related crime spree that includes a shooting death and arson at the liquor store where Moslah worked to support his family.

"We want the police to bring the criminals to justice," Mohammad Alsamma, a cousin of Moslah told KTVU on Monday.

RELATED: Oakland police offer $40,000 reward for info in suspected arson that killed father 

"These people may have emotions or feelings, but I think they are monsters," Alsamma said.

He said Moslah was working as a cashier at Booker's liquor store at 90th and Olive on April 10, when Dejoh Woods, 25, was shot and killed.

"When the problem happened, he was scared - he run away," Alsamma said.

Several days later, someone set the store on fire.

And then, early Saturday morning, someone went to Moslah's home and torched it. His family and police say Moslah had no connection to the violence.

"They tried to find anyone related, even, you know, a cashier in the store, any person, you know just to take revenge," Alsamma said.

Oakland police and fire are investigating the series of crimes, along with Alameda County prosecutors and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. 

Moslah worked at the store to help support his extended family in Yemen.

"We escaped from Yemen because of the war," Alsamma said. "And now, you know, the war is here."

At a news conference Saturday, Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong said, "It's really sad that in our community that someone would do something so heinous as is setting a home on fire in the middle of the night and killing an innocent family."

Armstrong called Moslah a hero for running through the flames to try to save his daughter. The two were found together.

 "He sacrificed his life. Unfortunately they both perished, and truly sad for the city," Armstrong said.

"She's a little angel. And we love Esam but we also love Esam more because of Aliyah," Alsamma said.

In a statement to KTVU, a cousin of Aliyah said there were "absolutely no imperfections with that sweet, sweet angel. As soon as she walks through the door we would all fight over who's going to hug and kiss her first, and she loved it."

She added, "She was very overprotective of her parents and so obsessed with her dad. No one was allowed to hug Esam except her. He was her everything, and she was his. We were all excited to see how Aliyah would react to becoming a big sister and beyond ecstatic that there would be two little ones running around the house again. It's beyond tragic that livig without them is going to be the new reality. Esam and Aliyah will forever be in all of our hearts!"

Faisal Alsamma described his brother-in-law as hard-working and "kind to all."

"He was eager to be a father, and Aliyah was his world," he said, his voice breaking. "Esam could not wait to expect the newest addition to the family, baby No. 2. Aliyah was sweet, spunky and full of life...She made the family happy and the home bright. Our entire family and community are at a loss for words. We are in shock."

Moslah's wife, who along with her mother were injured in the fire, is nine months pregnant and expecting a baby girl. She hasn't been told that her husband died, relatives said.

A fund has been established to help the family.