Furrukh Shan Alam, 37, left his Anaheim home for a business trip to Florida one afternoon in August 2011.
He never returned.
Instead, he was shot in the chest with a semiautomatic handgun, taking his last breath in the spare bedroom of a house on a quiet residential street in Maitland, an affluent suburb north of Orlando.
The owner of the house, Bruce Fuller, dialed 911 around 8:36 a.m. on Aug. 10, 2011, and told a dispatcher he had shot Alam, who had been staying at his house. Fuller told responding officers there had been a physical altercation and he had acted in self-defense.
“There were no other witnesses,” said Maitland Deputy Police Chief Bill McEachnie.
But Alam’s friends and family, believing Fuller had murdered Alam in cold blood rather than self-defense, pressed authorities to make an arrest.
“We tried to apply some pressure,” said Imran Alam, Furrukh’s brother, who flew to Florida after the shooting to meet with detectives. “Not knowing the circumstances of what happened made it more frustrating.”
Although police frequently briefed family members on the status of the investigation, they disclosed few details.
“We keep an open line of communication,” McEachnie said. “But it was frustrating for them, because I couldn’t tell them a whole lot.”
Then, in December, a warrant was issued for Fuller’s arrest. On Jan. 13, another call to Alam’s family members came from Maitland police: Fuller had been taken into custody after running a stop sign near his home. He was charged by prosecutors with second-degree murder in Alam’s death. He faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted.
“I had practically given up,” said Mahfooz Alam, the dead man’s father.
“We were very happy. The whole community is happy.”
Fuller, 63, has not entered a plea, officials with the Florida State Attorney’s Office said. He was released on house arrest late Friday after posting $50,000 bail, according to online court records.
Attempts to reach Fuller and his attorney were unsuccessful.
McEachnie said the case is based heavily on forensic evidence, and he added that detectives worked with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Florida State Attorney’s Office and a joint homicide task force led by the Orlando Police Department to investigate Alam’s death.
“There was significant forensic evidence that had to be examined and re-examined,” McEachnie said.
“I suppose we could have charged (Fuller) the night of the case, but it would have been dismissed, and that would have been the end of it. That’s why it took quite awhile.”
The deputy chief declined to say what evidence police have.
Alam’s father said the two men knew each other. Fuller sold Alam a cruise vacation a few years ago. They stayed in touch.
“He trusted his friends,” Mahfooz Alam said of his son.
“He trusted everyone he met.”
Alam, known by his friends as “Shan” and “Shawn,” was born in Inglewood and grew up in Anaheim. Alam married his wife, Farzana, in 2005. Their son, Rayhan, was born two years later.
Alam was active in the Orange County Islamic and Pakistani communities and with various charitable organizations, friends and family members said. He was kind and generous, often financially helping family, friends and even neighbors, they said.
More than 2,000 people attended his funeral in Westminster.
Disputing Fuller’s self-defense claim, family members said Alam did not have violent tendencies.
“He was always the person to calm a situation down,” Imran Alam said.
Alam’s wife and son have since moved to Houston to be closer to her family. They are still searching for answers.
“His son is waiting for his father,” Mahfooz Alam said. “He says, ‘My daddy got lost, but when he finds our house, he will come back.'”
By DOUGLAS MORINO/ THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
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