TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — After moving into their new condominium in June 2022, Umar Abdullah and expectant wife were ready to welcome their daughter. They met their neighbors, and soon enough, a newborn was kicking around the place.
Shortly thereafter, his downstairs neighbor, Xuming Li, began texting him, complaining of noises from upstairs. In texts shared with 8 On Your Side, Li said he couldn’t sleep and could hear the toilet seat being moved.
After months of back and forth between the two men, the grogginess, sickness and vomiting for Abdullah and his family began.
“I look at my daughter,” Abdullah said. “Her eyes were full of tears. She was not crying, but her eyes were full of tears.”
Abdullah said a friend of his first smelled the chemicals when she went to bring in a package while Abdullah was on vacation. When the family returned, they said smelled it too. Though some described it as nail polish remover, Abdullah said it was more ‘obnoxious.’
First, he said he called an air conditioning company, but they said nothing was wrong. A plumber checked out the water heater, where the smell appeared to be coming from, but that was fine too, though Abdullah said his landlord had it replaced. The smell kept returning, even after the air ducts and vents were cleaned too.
“I never thought after all this that no,” Abdullah said. “I’m just imagining this. No.”
He even called the fire department, but their tests didn’t reveal anything.
“Then, I actually double checked,” Abdullah explained. “I started sniffing that place like a dog.”
After all the suspects he could think of were checked off, he said he thought about his downstairs neighbor, who kept complaining of noises that Abdullah eventually believed didn’t exist. When Abdullah took a skewer to his door, he said he found a crack in the corner that a syringe could fit through. He installed a hidden camera in the plant outside.
“Even during war, the worst enemies do not attack the opponent, the other party, with chemicals,” Abdullah said.
On a day when he said he noticed his daughter sick again, he checked the hidden camera. It appeared to show his downstairs neighbor crouching down in front of Abdullah’s front door, but the angle was not clear enough to tell what was going on.
“We were shaking,” Abdullah recalled. “We can’t imagine that he is coming and doing something.”
After adjusting the hidden camera angle, Abdullah said he waited until his daughter got sick again. He checked the footage and saw his neighbor. This time, the video appeared to show his neighbor taking a syringe out, filling it with liquid, then injecting the liquid into the crack in Abdullah’s doorframe.
“The first that came to my mind — my daughter and my wife,” Abdullah remembered. “They need to be safe.”
He got his family out of the house, then called the police. Li was arrested and charged with multiple felonies, including possession of a controlled substance and burglary. According to a Tampa Police Department affidavit, a hazmat test found the “liquid “chemical agent” contained both methodone and hydrocodone, opioid pain medications.
Abdullah doesn’t want to think about any long term side effects on his daughter.
Li’s arrest record lists him as a student at USF, but the school told 8 On Your Side he was a chemistry PhD student and is no longer enrolled there — his last semester was summer 2023.
Li is out on bond and his next hearing is December 5. He’s also facing lawsuits from Abdullah for domestic violence and the condo association for breach of contract.
In a statement to 8 On Your Side, Li’s attorney said Li pled not guilty and all of the facts will come in due course of time.
Abdullah’s daughter celebrated her first birthday a couple weeks ago, in the same condo she was brought to a year ago. He said the family is looking for a new place, but it’s hard to find one with their new specifications — townhome, first floor or a single family home.
“A neighbor, who supposedly, who’s seemingly a regular guy, he was coming and harming us with chemicals,” Abdullah said. “And that was very scary for us.”