Adil Dghoughi was sitting in his girlfriend’s car in the small town of Martindale, Texas, when a resident walked out of his home with a handgun, confronted him, and then shot and killed the 31-year-old.
The bullet, Adil’s brother Othmane Dghoughi told BuzzFeed News, pierced the driver’s-side window, cut through his left hand, struck his head, and shattered the passenger’s-side window of the gray Audi.
That was nine days ago, but family and friends told BuzzFeed News that authorities have yet to provide answers on what led up to the shooting and why no one has been arrested.
“We don’t know what happened to him,” Othmane Dghoughi said. “They didn’t tell us nothing.”
According to a Caldwell County Sheriff's Office press release, deputies were called at 3:42 a.m. on Oct. 11 to the 100 block of Tina’s Trail in Martindale, a town of just over 1,000 people about 40 miles south of Austin. Deputies found one man with a gunshot wound after a homeowner “confronted a suspicious vehicle outside the residence.”
According to the sheriff’s office, the shooter has been cooperating with investigators and has not been identified because he has not been arrested.
The department repeatedly declined to confirm even basic information to BuzzFeed News, such as the victim’s name.
Reached by phone Monday, Lt. Kyle McConnell said no information could be released because of the ongoing investigation. McConnell declined to confirm Dghoughi as the victim of the shooting, even though his next of kin have been notified. It has been the practice of the department in the past to release the names of the deceased after family members are notified.
“At this point, we’re not releasing anything,” McConnell said.
The limited details that have been released by the sheriff’s office have raised questions among Dghoughi’s family and friends. And the bullet holes found in the car suggest Dghoughi had his windows rolled up when he was shot.
The evening before he was killed, Dghoughi and his girlfriend, Sarah Todd, had driven from her home in Maxwell, Texas, to her cousin’s home about an hour away for a barbecue. Their plan was to spend the night there and leave the next morning after breakfast.
Sometime after 12:30 a.m. on Oct. 11, however, Todd said Dghoughi woke her up and told her he wanted to go home.
Dghoughi sometimes felt uncomfortable staying at other people’s homes, she said, but she reminded him they had plans to stay until breakfast. She went back to sleep, but Dghoughi took her keys and drove back to her place.
Todd is not sure what prompted Dghoughi to do so. He often went for late-night drives if he felt anxious, she said, and he also worked as a rideshare driver. But at about 1:15 a.m., Todd said, video from her home shows Dghoughi arrived there and stayed for about two hours.
Sometime around 3 a.m., he left again.
“Sometimes he liked to drive around and listen to music,” she said. “I don’t know if that’s possible or what he was doing. I don’t know if anyone lives in that neighborhood that he was in — I don't think he knew anyone who lived there, or maybe he got to the neighborhood and got lost.”
Martindale is a five-minute drive from Todd’s home in Maxwell, and at some point, Dghoughi ended up in the 100 block of Tina’s Trail, where officials said he was shot.
Todd woke up at 5 a.m., saw that her car and Dghoughi were missing, and texted him. By 6 a.m., deputies showed up at her mother’s home, looking to notify her that Dghoughi had been shot.
“The first thing that came out of their mouths was that this was self-defense,” she said. “[The investigators] said, from what was said by the homeowner, was that it was self-defense and that’s what they were looking at.”
The sheriff’s department spokesperson, McConnell, declined to comment on whether investigators are looking at self-defense or whether the investigation involves Texas’s version of a “stand your ground” law, which in some cases allows a homeowner to use deadly force to defend their residence.
Officials also did not respond to questions about whether Todd’s account of investigators mentioning “self-defense” was correct.
A heavily redacted copy of the department’s incident report obtained by BuzzFeed News likewise provides little detail about the confrontation. The document does, however, identify the shooter as a 65-year-old man who used a handgun.
The man, who is not being named by BuzzFeed News because he has not been arrested or described as a suspect by police, could not be reached by phone or email for comment.
Othmane Dghoughi said one investigator referenced a “misunderstanding” but added that he doesn’t understand how self-defense might play a role in the case, pointing out that his brother was shot through a closed car window.
“My brother is a loving guy,” he said. “He was a good guy.”
Othmane said he came to the US from Morocco to study years ago and his brother followed shortly after. Adil Dghoughi earned a master’s in business administration from Johnson & Wales University in 2014 and was living in Florida.
He was married in 2015, but, his wife, Amy, told BuzzFeed News, they separated after four years. The two remained friends, and she knew he’d been dating, she said. After being unable to find a well-paying job, he moved to College Station, Texas, where his brother was already living, in 2019.
In 2020, he moved to Austin, hoping it would increase his chances of finding a better-paying job as a financial analyst. In the meantime, he worked as a rideshare driver.
After his death, Amy, who asked that her last name not be used to protect her privacy, flew to Texas from her home in Florida, but it took her days to reach someone at the sheriff’s department. When she finally was able to get an interview, she said, investigators asked her questions about Dghoughi that appeared to have no bearing on how he died. She said one investigator, for example, asked her whether she was aware that Dghoughi had been dating Todd.
“I said, ‘We’re separated, and I spoke to her this morning,’” she said. “It was just them trying to get me to say something bad about him.”
Investigators also asked whether he was a violent person, whether he drank, and whether he had ever hit her, she said.
“They asked all types of questions,” she said. “Then they said, ‘Well, that’s all I have,’ and I said, ‘Well, I have some questions for you.’ And I went down my list. They just said, ‘I can’t give you that information, it's under investigation.’”
Amy had hoped to get some understanding of what happened, but she began to grow uneasy at the investigators’ questions and lack of transparency.
“It felt like [the interview] wasn’t long enough and took forever at the same breath,” she said.
Other family members and friends said they’re also concerned about how the investigation is being conducted.
Todd said she was surprised to receive a call from the sheriff’s department the day of the shooting to tell her they had completed their inspection of her car, where Dghoughi was shot. Just 14 hours after the shooting, they told her she could pick it up at the department’s impound lot or she’d start to incur charges.
Family members are now working with the Council on American-Islamic Relations in the hopes of getting answers about what happened. They are looking into hiring a private investigator and have reached out to outside agencies hoping for one of them to oversee, or possibly take over, the investigation.
“The murder seems quite suspicious, and it seems that it’s another example of ‘stand your ground’ laws being used to kill another person of color,” Faizan Syed, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Dallas–Fort Worth, told BuzzFeed News. “He never got out of his car, he never went to the home, and he may have never rolled down his windows. If that’s the case, this individual came out and killed this young man.”