Father and Baby Daughter Die in Fire After Being Wrongly Targeted in Possible Retaliatory Attack
A man and his daughter were killed in an arson fire in what is feared to be a horrific case of mistaken identity
Esam Nagi Musleh and his 1-year-old daughter Aliyah Musleh — who were identified to PEOPLE by their family — died when their Oakland home was engulfed in flames around 12:14 a.m. on Saturday.
Two others were injured in the fire, the Oakland Police Department said on Facebook.
"It is sad," Musleh's brother-in-law, Faisal Alsamma, told PEOPLE. "Esam was a hard worker. A giving guy, a nice guy."
On Saturday, Musleh ran back into the house after escaping to try to save Aliyah, as well as his pregnant wife and disabled mother-in-law, a LaunchGood campaign, created to help support his family, says.
Emergency responders found the bodies of Musleh and his daughter next to each other, KPIX reports.
"The father and the child were found together," Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong told the station. "And so it's really sad, but the father is a hero. He sacrificed his life."
"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 reportedly added.
Musleh fled to the United States from Yemen five years ago. He lived in Oakland with his wife, daughter, and extended family, according to the family's campaign.
"Esam's family home has always had an open-door policy for loved ones and community members. In fact, at the time the fire broke out Esam was providing for 15 family members at the house," the page reads. "This is a community-centered family, who has long since been a huge part of Oakland. This tragedy has impacted this family, their neighbors and the whole community."
Authorities said that Musleh was working at a local liquor store last week when another person shot and killed 25-year-old Dejoh Woods inside.
Investigators said that they believe Woods had ties to a local gang, and the arson fire at Musleh's home was likely a retaliatory attack even though the father was not involved in the shooting, KPIX reports.
Someone that authorities believe was involved in the shooting that killed Woods turned themselves in on Thursday, police said.
The day after the shooting, another arson fire was set at the liquor store where Woods was killed. Authorities said they believe that fire is also connected to the shooting.
"We are not related to the guy who shot [Woods]," Mohammed Alsamma, Musleh's cousin, told the station. "So I don't know why they came after us."
Faisal Alsamma told PEOPLE that the family is struggling to come to terms with the loss of their home and their two loved ones, especially knowing the attack was targeted.
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"They tried to kill all of us. Not only [Aliyah] and her dad," he said, adding "We're not feeling safe anymore around there."
Musleh's family has also set up a Facebook page with updates about their wellbeing.
Oakland police are offering a reward of up to $40,000 for information regarding these cases. Anyone can contact the Oakland Crime Stoppers tip line at (510) 777-8572.