Three young Muslim students were murdered on Tuesday at a condominium complex in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, were shot to death by neighbor Craig Stephen Hicks, 46.
According to police, the motive was a dispute over a parking spot.
On Friday, President Obama suggested that the motive may have actually been related to religious hatred. “No one in the United States of America should ever be targeted because of who they are, what they look like, or how they worship,” Obama said in a statement. “Michelle and I offer our condolences to the victims’ loved ones. As we saw with the overwhelming presence at the funeral of these young Americans, we are all one American family,” the Blaze reports.
Obama’s comments follow those of the Muslim-American community and the victims’ families who insist the trio was murdered purely out of hate.
"All honest Americans, they're all here – white and black, and all colors and shapes. So let's stand up – real and honest – and see what these three children were martyred about. It was not about a parking spot,” Mohammad Yousif Abu-Salha, father of two of the victims said, as reported by USA Today.
Search warrants indicate that Hicks had a dozen firearms in his home, including six rifles and two shotguns. Neighbors describe Hicks as an angry man who has previously gotten into disputes over parking. It is also reported that sometime last month, Hicks posted a photo to his Facebook page which read “Praying is pointless, useless, narcissistic, arrogant and lazy; just like the imaginary god you pray to,” according to the New York Times.
Hicks is charged with three counts of first degree murder. The FBI and the Justice Department are investigating whether Hicks violated hate-crime laws in the shooting deaths of the three victims.