Three Muslim students were shot to death at a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill residential complex, and a suspect, with reportedly anti-religious views, has been taken into custody, Al-Jazeera reports.
Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, was arrested and charged in the triple homicide of 23-year-old Deah Shaddy Barakat; his wife, 21-year-old Yusor Mohammad; and Mohammad’s 19-year-old sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha. Chapel Hill police described the initial motivation as an “ongoing neighbor dispute over parking.”
"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," Police Chief Chris Blue said in a statement.
According to The Independent, before going on his shooting spree, Hicks had reportedly criticized all religions online, describing himself as an “anti-theist” and a supporter of “Atheists for Equality.”
One social media post included a picture from United Atheists of America asking “why radical Christians and radical Muslims are so opposed to each others’ influence when they agree about so many ideological issues,” according to the Independent.
Hicks reportedly turned himself in to the authorities after the Tuesday shooting.
Barakat was a second-year student at UNC’s dentistry school, which his wife was also planning on attending in the fall. The younger Mohammad was a student at North Carolina State University. Barakat reportedly also volunteered for various agencies to help provide dental help to Syrian and Palestinian refugees, along with helping the homeless in the U.S., The Independent notes.