The University of Iowa recommended that Taleb Hussein Yousef Salameh be denied a weapons permit in 2010, but the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office issued him a permit to purchase anyway in February of that year, public records show.
On Sunday evening, Salameh, 28, was involved in a shootout with North Liberty police that left him dead, according to the Sheriff’s Office. Officers were responding to a domestic disturbance when the shooting occurred. Three of the responding officers were hit by bulletsand taken to the hospital
They were treated and released for non-life threatening injuries, the Sheriff’s Office reported.
At the time of his death, Salameh was a UI graduate research assistant in mechanical engineering, according to UI spokesman Tom Moore. He began at the UI in 2005 and graduated with a major in mechanical engineering and a minor in German in 2009, according to Moore. He continued his education at the UI as a graduate student in August 2009. He was enrolled as a full-time student in the mechanical engineering program when he died.
A web search of Salameh shows his involvement in UI research projects, presentations and honors, including a $2,000 scholarship award in 2007.
But university records made public Monday show that when Salameh applied for a weapons permit with the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office in February 2010, UI officials had some concerns.
“I have serious reservations about Mr. Salameh’s intention to purchase a handgun,” UI Associate Vice President for Student Services David Grady wrote in a letter to the Sheriff’s Office in March 2010. “The public state crime website lists numerous criminal convictions over the years, several of which were alcohol-related. In addition, Mr. Salameh was involved in an assault on a student that took place in another state in February, 2009.”
Grady in the letter asked the Sheriff’s Office to wait until approving Salameh’s request for a weapons permit until 2011, as he was scheduled to complete his degree in 2010.
An earlier letter from Grady in February 2010 told the Sheriff’s Office to hold off on issuing a permit until UI officials could meet with a counselor and psychiatrist who Salameh had been seeing. Records show that the Sheriff’s Office issued Salameh a permit to purchase in February 2010.
According to permit records, Salameh was living at a Johnson Street apartment at the time.
North Liberty police went to his residence at 238 Holiday Lodge Road just before 6 p.m. Sunday in response to a 911 call, according to the Sheriff’s Office. North Liberty officers arrived on scene within three minutes and made contact with a female victim, according to the news release.
When they contacted Salameh, gunshots were exchanged, Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek reported. Salameh died at the scene, according to Pulkrabek, and the three injured officers were taken to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.
The female victim was not injured in the incident, and no one else was in the mobile home at the time, Pulkrabek reported.
The names of the officers involved have not been made public pending an internal investigation of the shooting. The officers are on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation, according to the news release.
Dozens of police cars lined the streets of the mobile home park after the shooting, and investigators stayed on scene through the night. Witnesses who live near the trailer say they heard gunshots Sunday evening and were concerned for their safety.
“My kitchen blew up with red and blue lights,” said Jeff Harper, who lived a few doors from Salameh’s unit and said he witnessed the large and rapid response.
Harper said he didn’t hear shots and didn’t hear any arguing before police arrived on scene. But Marc Yamashita, who lives nearby, said his two children heard the gunshots and were curious and concerned.
Doctorate student Mohsen Ghamari, a classmate who shared an office with Salameh, told The Associated Press on Monday that Salameh was close to finishing his master’s degree after about four years in the program. He said Salameh was supposed to defend his thesis and graduate as early as this spring and then take a good-paying job in the private sector.
“He was very busy these days. I see some homework on his desk. He was supposed to grade them,” Ghamari said. “He was very good at doing his job as a teaching assistant. He was always on time.”
Ghamari said Salemeh had been working as a teaching assistant to support his family, which included a girlfriend and a 1-year-old daughter. He said he saw the three at a party last summer, and they appeared to be a happy family.
Salameh did have some problems, Ghamari said, including serving a short jail term for what he called “a bar fight” and quitting school for a semester after getting depression. But he said those problems did not seem major for Salameh, who he described as very smart and friendly.
“As far as I know, he was a fine guy,” he said. “I’m shocked.”
An online profile for the Global Illumination Council lists a Taleb Salameh of Iowa City as a member of the group.
In an information section about Salameh on that page, he says he was born in Iowa City and has lived here his entire life.
“I am currently finishing my master’s in mechanical engineering. I have a beautiful seven month old daughter. I’ll leave it at that for now,” according to the profile.
Salameh on the website says he’s interested in thermal fluids and combustion, along with gardening quantum mechanics and spirituality and “UFOlogy.”
Salameh’s criminal history in Iowa includes numerous convictions for driving and alcohol offenses, theft and trespassing. He apparently was arrested in 2009 on suspicion of public intoxication and assault causing injury.
He also was arrested as a juvenile in Johnson County on suspicion of alcohol offenses. He has not been convicted of a felony in Iowa.
In February, a Johnson County judge issued a temporary protective order against Salameh. But the petition was dismissed when the protected party did not appear in court.
The woman involved in that case is listed in public records as living at 223 Holiday Lodge Road.
Associated Press reporter Ryan Foley contributed to this report.