Three Muslim students were shot and killed by a white man Tuesday afternoon in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
The victims, Yusor Mohammad and her husband, Deah Shaddy Barakat, and sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, were all students in their late teens or early 20s; they were shot in the head and pronounced dead on the scene. Craig Stephen Hicks, a 46-year-old white man, turned himself in to the police and is being charged with three counts of first-degree murder.
Although the Town of Chapel Hill said in a statement that a preliminary investigation shows the shooting was over a parking dispute, investigators of the incident are currently attempting to determine whether the shooting was hate-motivated. Mohammad Abu-Salha, the father of the two daughters who were killed, said Yusor and her husband had been involved in disagreements with Hicks before Tuesday afternoon’s shooting. He believes the crime was motivated by Hicks’ animosity toward the couple’s religion and culture.
“This has all the signs. It was execution style, a bullet in every head,” Abu-Salha told newsobserver.com. “This was not a dispute over a parking space; this was a hate crime. This man had picked on my daughter and her husband a couple of times before, and he talked with them with his gun in his belt. And they were uncomfortable with him, but they did not know he would go this far.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a civil-liberties group, asked authorities to address public concerns as soon as possible. “We urge state and federal law enforcement authorities to quickly address speculation of a possible bias motive in this case,” said executive director Nihad Awad.
What seems to be Hicks’ personal Facebook page shows he was an active atheist who posted anti-religion statements. One post reads, “Given the enormous harm that your religion has done in this world. I’d say I have not only a right, but a duty, to insult it.” One of his posted photographs is of a handgun in a holster where “Yes, that is 1 pound 5.1 ounces for my loaded 38 revolver, its holster, and five extra rounds in a speedloader,” he wrote as the caption.
The shooting occurred east of the University of North Carolina campus, where Barakat was a dentistry student. Mohammad planned to join the same program next semester, and her sister was a design student at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. According to the Facebook memorial page, Mohammad recently traveled to Turkey to volunteer in dental relief, and her husband was planning to go to Turkey this summer to provide dental care to students – Mohammad and Barakat were married just two months ago.
Media Resources: Politico 2/11/2015; USA Today 2/11/205; The Wall Street Journal 2/11/2015; ABC News 2/11/2015