Three Muslim students were shot and killed in an apartment complex in Chapel Hill, North Carolina Tuesday night by a 46-year-old man. Two of the victims, Yusor Mohammad, 21, of Chapel Hill, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, were sisters. Mohammad's husband, Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, who she had just married in December, was also killed.
The alleged shooter is Craig Stephen Hicks, 46. WRAL reports that he turned himself into police immediately after shooting all three of the students in the head. His motive so far is unclear; according to several reports, he'd posted about atheism on his Facebook page.
Barakat was a second-year dental student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Mohammad was reportedly a student at North Carolina State University and planning to begin dental school at UNC in the fall. Abu-Salha, her little sister, was reportedly a sophomore at North Carolina state. All three lived at the apartment complex.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations is calling for law enforcement to quickly investigate whether this was a hate crime.
"Based on the brutal nature of this crime, the past anti-religion statements of the alleged perpetrator, 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," CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad is quoted as saying in a press release. "Our heartfelt condolences go to the families and loved ones of the victims and to the local community." The hashtag #MuslimLivesMatter, calling for a full investigation into the murders, is already going viral.
The Daily Tarheel reported seeing despondent family members sobbing near the scene of the crime. There's a very upsetting video circulating that appears to be Barakat's father at the scene, pleading for information from police:
Ibrahim Hooper, CAIR's communications director, told the Washington Post he'd heard unsubstantiated reports that Hicks had confronted the students previously in a dispute over a parking space.
Barakat spearheaded an effort to raise money for dental care for Syrian refugees in Turkey; many people are now donating to the page in memory of him and his slain family members.
The slain students. Image via Facebook/Deah Barakat