A 46-year-old man has been charged with murder in the shooting death of three Muslim students in an apartment near the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus.
Police haven’t said what may have compelled the accused, Craig Stephen Hicks, to allegedly carry out the attack Tuesday evening. He turned himself into police later in the night.
Craig Stephen Hicks was arrested and charged with murder in the shooting deaths of three North Carolina students.
But given the victims’ religion and comments the alleged shooter apparently left on a Facebook page, many social media users wondered what role, if any, the victims’ faith played.
The victims were Muslims: Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23; Yusor Mohammad, 21; and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19.
Barakat was Mohammad’s husband; Abu-Salha was her sister, the school said.
In Hicks’ Facebook, he refers to himself as a ‘militant atheist’ and posts related to atheism are the majority on his Facebook. His avatar is “Atheists for Equality”, and he has several posts dedicated to gay rights. He was recently married to his wife, but only a couple of posts are related to that. He liked “Forward Progressives’ as well as an anti-‘Teabaggers’ group. He was a fan of Richard Dawkins and Neil De Grasse Tyson.
Despite all of this, which CNN did not report, no doubt we will see the inevitable “he must have been a teabagger’ shouts.
Muslims on social media are already asking why there is not more coverage on the case, why there are not condemnations of this act and calling it terrorism. Richard Dawkins has already condemned it. But the East Coast is just waking up to it, so doubtless we will hear much more on this case today.
Police are now saying it may have been because of a long term dispute over a parking space.
The Chapel Hill Police Department said Wednesday morning that initial indications suggested that the issue stemmed from a parking altercation.
“Our preliminary investigation indicates that the crime was motivated by an ongoing neighbor dispute over parking,” the department said in a statement. “Hicks is cooperating with investigators and more information may be released at a later time.”
After the three victims were identified in an alert from UNC Chapel Hill as husband and wife Deah Barakat, 23, and Yusor Mohammad, 21, and Mohammad’s sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, speculation arose that the killing might be related to their religion. The news sparked outrage and a viral Twitter hashtag, #MuslimLivesMatter, reflecting users belief that the crime was religiously motivated and frustration with what they saw as the media’s failure to report the incident.
“Our investigators are exploring what could have motivated Mr. Hicks to commit such a senseless and tragic act,” Chris Blue, the Chapel Hill police chief, said in a statement. “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. Our thoughts are with the families and friends of these young people who lost their lives so needlessly.”