Three students from the University of North Carolina were killed on Tuesday after their neighbor shot them over an alleged parking space dispute. Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, his wife, Yusor Mohammad, 21, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, were shot by Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, who has since turned himself in to police.
Deah Barakat was a dentistry student and the organizer of the YouCaring page to fund a Syrian Dental Relief project. He planned to join ten other local dentists and school faculty on a trip to Rihaniya, Turkey, in the summer of 2015. The following video is shared on the fundraising page.
He and his wife, Yusor Mohammad, were married a month ago.
Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha was pursuing a degree in Architecture and Environmental Design.
Speculation is growing on whether the parking disagreement was motive for the triple-murder or if Hicks’ actions were fueled by an alleged hatred of his Muslim neighbors.
Mohammed Abu-Salha, father of two of the victims, told newsobserver.com:
This has all the signs. It was execution style, a bullet in every head. This was not a dispute over a parking space; this was a hate crime.
Nihad Awad, national director of the Council of American Islamic Relations said in a statement:
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.
It is not clear if religion was the motivator in these killings; however, police are considering the possibility that they may be dealing with a hate crime. Chapel Hill Police Chef Chris Blue said in a statement on the town’s website:
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.
Hicks shared numerous anti-religion posts on his Facebook page and recently shared a photo of a loaded revolver.
Craig Hicks is currently being held without bond and has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder.