Family fled violence of Sudan’s civil war only to have sons gunned down in Armory Square

Syracuse, NY – Mary and Peter Lual decided to leave Sudan in 2000 to escape a years-long civil war that was destroying the African nation and left millions dead.

They took their two boys – Akok, 7, and Lual, 5, – and made the treacherous trip to Egypt. The family lived in a refugee camp there for five years before moving to the United States.

Mary and Peter Lual made a new life in Syracuse, working three jobs and buying a home in Eastwood. They joined a church and Peter became a deacon. Their family grew to six children.

On Friday night, the couple’s lives were shattered when two of their sons – Akok and Lual – were shot on a crowded street in Armory Square along with three other young men.

Akok, 24, died at Upstate University Hospital. Lual, 22, is in fair condition as of Monday afternoon, according to hospital officials. No arrests have been made in the shooting.

“We come here to raise our kids,” said Mary. “We didn’t come here to see them get killed.”

Mary and Peter Lual sat down to talk with Syracuse.com | The Post-Standard Monday afternoon in their home on Stafford Avenue.

Akok dreamed of being a music producer one day, his parents said. For now, he worked at Lowes in North Syracuse, they said.

He was a funny man and often had his mother laughing.

“He didn’t make me laugh like a mother,” Mary said. “He made me laugh like a sister.”

For Mary, Akok provided help navigating their new life in America. When she moved here she didn’t speak English. Akok would start school and help his mother with her English, she said.

Akok, as an adult, was still helping her with things on the computer such as paying bills, she said. He would also often drive her to and from work.

Mary said she works 16-hour days as a janitor at Syracuse University and Fowler High School to provide for the couple’s six children. Her husband works as a janitor at Upstate University Hospital.

Recognizing his parent’s hard work, Akok wanted to start giving back to his parents, they said.

Mary recalled how Akok said he wanted to fix up their house and in the future give her a good home. One day she wouldn’t have to work, he would tell her.

They said Akok was a hard worker and generous. He helped with his five younger siblings, they said.

He was well known in the Sudanese community, Mary said. If he saw someone walking he would stop and offer them a ride, she said.

On Friday night, Mary said she was busy cooking when Akok told her he was going out.

He loved when she cooked traditional Sudanese food or American food like spaghetti and meatballs. That night she was cooking a couple of different dishes, she said.

Akok and his brother Lual left the house together, she said. Akok said he didn’t plan on being out long because he had work the next day and that he would be back for the food.

“He never came back (to) get it,” she said. “I don’t believe, it’s like a dream for me.”

Peter and Mary said Monday they have no idea what happened in Armory Square hours after their sons left home. They are desperate for more information.

“Why this person kill my son?” Mary asked. “You happy now? After you did that, you happy? ”

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Staff writer Rylee Kirk covers breaking news, crime and public safety. Have a tip, story idea, photo, question or comment? Reach her at 315-396-5961, on Twitter @kirk_rylee, or rkirk@syracuse.com.

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