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Crime & Courts

Anchorage man to serve 10 years in prison for Nordstrom stabbing

An Anchorage man who stabbed his former boss in a Nordstrom Cafe last year was sentenced Tuesday to serve 10 years in prison.

On the morning of April 29, 2019, Gordon Samel III walked into the store, which closed last fall, and headed for the office of his former manager, Fahrid Bahri, who goes by the name Morad. Bahri was sitting in his chair when Samel attacked him with scissors, stabbing him only a half-inch from his heart.

Other employees ran to Bahri’s aid as Samel tried to stab him again. Bahri said he dislocated a shoulder and broke a finger during the struggle but was not stabbed again. Samel left the store and was arrested at his home.

Samel had worked at the Nordstrom Cafe for several years until he quit in 2017. Bahri said he continued to check in on his former employee because they had a good relationship and he could tell Samel was going through a rough time.

Bahri said he underwent emergency heart surgery after the stabbing and his family was unsure if he’d survive. He lost his job because the post traumatic stress disorder he developed after the attack prevents him from managing people as he once did, Bahri said.

Bahri said he feels that Samel targeted him because he believes in God — Bahri is a Muslim and said he had deep discussions with Samel about religion and God. He said that during a conversation several months prior to the stabbing, Samel had expressed that he hated anyone who believes in God and he disliked Muslims.

Samel’s mother spoke during Tuesday’s hearing to apologize to Bahri and his family for the trauma her son had caused. She said she did not think this was a hate crime, but instead a horrific act of violence caused by undiagnosed mental illnesses.

Samel also apologized to Bahri during the hearing and said he was undergoing significant delusions during the crime and was unable to tell what was real. He said he still respects Bahri and hopes he can someday be forgiven.

“One good thing happened that day — you survived. You lived,” he said. “And that’s the only good thing that happened that day.”

Anchorage Superior Court Judge Kevin Saxby ruled that there was not enough evidence to determine if the court could apply an aggravating factor that would determine if the crime was motivated by hate, but Saxby said that it was seemingly related because it provides some sense of a reason why Bahri was targeted that morning.

“Whether there was intent or not, there’s a chilling factor that will be there for the rest of his life when he talks to strangers about things that are close to his heart,” Saxby said.

Saxby sentenced Samel to 20 years in prison, with 10 years suspended, followed by 10 years of probation.

Samel was originally charged with attempted murder, burglary and third-degree assault, but those three counts were dismissed as part of a plea agreement that called for him to admit to first-degree assault. Assistant District Attorney Patrick McKay said the case was challenging because there was evidence that the attack was premeditated and that it was clear Samel had mental illnesses.

McKay said he hoped Samel could continue receiving mental health treatment while he’s incarcerated and hopes he can be rehabilitated by serving 10 years of probation after he’s released with special stipulations to ensure he is getting professional help for his illness.

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