A family of three young Muslims has been shot dead Wednesday in their home in a district near North Carolina in the US. Police have defined the victims as 23-year-old Deah Shaddy Barakat, his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19.
Sources told local WRAL News that all three had been shot in their head. Officers went to investigate the tragic incident at 5.11 pm at an apartment block largely housing academics and young professionals on Summer-walk Circle in Chapel Hill.
The victims were found shot dead at the scene, while some residents said they didn’t know about the crime until the police arrived.
A 46-year-old man, named by police as Craig Stephen Hicks, has been arrested on suspicion of murder intentionally.
Hicks appeared briefly in court Wednesday morning, during which he spoke only to answer that he understood the charges and to confirm an indigence affidavit.
In a statement issued on Wednesday morning (local time), Chapel Hill Police said that an initial investigation suggested the crime was “motivated by an ongoing neighbour dispute over parking”.
But the women’s father, Dr Mohammad Abu-Salha, who has a psychiatry practice in Clayton, told the North Carolina News and Observer that he thought the shooting was due to the religion the murdered. “This was not a dispute over a parking space; this was a hate crime,” he added.
He went on to allege that Hicks had “picked on” his daughter and her husband “a couple times before.” “They were uncomfortable with him, but they did not know he would go this far,” he said.
Hicks described himself as an atheist on Facebook and posted regular images and text condemning all religions. Police said he handed himself in last night. District Judge Marcia Morey said he would be appointed a public defender and held without bond until a 4 March hearing.
Police chief Chris Blue named the killing “senseless and tragic” and said the force’s “thoughts are with the families and friends of these young people who lost their lives so needlessly”. He 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.”