Urgent Call to investigate whether US triple murder was an anti-Muslim hate crime

February 12, 2015 4:21 am

Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, enters the courtroom for his first appearance on triple murder charges. Photo / AP Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, enters the courtroom for his first appearance on triple murder charges. Photo / AP

A long-running parking dispute between neighbours motivated a man to
kill a woman, her husband and her sister at a quiet condominium complex
near the University of North Carolina campus, police said.
Beyond
the parking dispute, police didn’t comment further on the motivation or
details of the , but a Muslim civil rights and advocacy
organisation asked authorities to address speculation – much of it on
social media – about possible bias.
The three victims were Muslim, a friend said.
Craig
Stephen Hicks, 46, was charged with three counts of first-degree murder
in yesterday’s shooting of Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, Yusor Mohammad, 21,
and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19.
Barakat and Mohammad were married, and Abu-Salha was Mohammad’s sister.
Hicks
appeared briefly in court this morning. He spoke only to answer that he
understood the charges and to confirm an indigency affidavit. District
Judge Marcia Morey said he would be appointed a public defender and held
without bond until a March 4 hearing.
Police said Hicks was
cooperating with the investigation and that their preliminary
investigation showed that the parking dispute was the motive.
But
outrage spread among American Muslims who viewed the homicides as an
outgrowth of anti-Muslim opinions in the Many posted social media
updates with the Twitter hashtags #MuslimLivesMatter and
#CallItTerrorism
“Based on the brutal nature of this crime …
the religious attire of two of the victims, and the rising anti-Muslim
rhetoric in American society, we urge state and federal law enforcement
authorities to quickly address speculation of a possible bias motive in
this case,” Nihad Awad, of the Council on American-Islamic Relations,
said in a statement.

 Chapel Hill police officers investigate the scene of three murders near Summerwalk Circle in Chapel Hill. Photo / AP

In an email, Chapel Hill police Chief Chris
Blue said, “We understand the concerns about the possibility that this
was hate-motivated, and we will exhaust every lead to determine if that
is the case.”
Durham district attorney Roger Echols said he
couldn’t discuss a motive. Asked whether Hicks could be charged with a
hate crime, he said the facts of the case were still under
investigation.
A spokeswoman for the US attorney’s office in
North Carolina that encompasses Chapel Hill didn’t immediately return
messages seeking comment about whether federal prosecutors were involved
in the investigation or looking into a possible hate crime.
Gerod
King of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said
agents were in touch with the US attorney’s office and that
investigators hadn’t ruled out a hate crime.
Abdullah Antepli,
director of Muslim affairs at nearby Duke University, issued a statement
calling for people not to jump to conclusions over the motive for the
killings.
At UNC, Barakat was a second-year dental student, and Yusor was scheduled to begin dental studies in the fall.
Both
had graduated from North Carolina State University, school spokesman
Mick Kulikowski said. Barakat graduated with a business administration
degree in the spring of 2013. Mohammad graduated in December with a
biological sciences degree.
Abu-Salha was a second-year design major who had started classes last fall, Kulikowski said.
Muneeb Mustafa, 23, attended the same Raleigh mosque as Barakat.
“He
was a completely genuine guy. Loving, caring, friendly, smart,” Mustafa
said. “He was an ideal human being. He was a role model.”
Mustafa
said they last saw each other about a month ago, playing in a
basketball tournament staged by the Muslim Student Association at UNC,
Mustafa said. Barakat, his wife of less than two months and his sister
were all Muslim, Mustafa said.
Barakat’s family was from Syria,
and he was raising money to help refugees of the country’s civil war,
Mustafa said. Mohammad traveled to Turkey last summer to help treat
dental problems in Syrian refugees in that country, Mustafa said.
The
neighbourhood where they were found — about three miles east of campus
— consists mostly of apartments and condominiums rented by students.
Neighbours there said this morning that never before seen police or had
crime problems.
Neighbour Samantha Maness said suspect Hicks
“complained about noise and parking. So I wasn’t extremely surprised”
when he was charged.
“Anytime that I saw him or saw interaction
with him or friends or anyone in the parking lot or myself, he was
angry,” she said. “He was very angry, anytime I saw him.”

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