Local News

Chapel Hill murder suspect was banned from calling towing company

Posted February 12, 2015
Updated February 13, 2015

— The man accused of shooting three Muslims at a Chapel Hill condominium had neighbors' cars removed so often that he was eventually banned from using the towing company, according to a driver who often tows vehicles from the complex.

Yusor Abu-Salha with former teacher Victim loved being part of American fabric

"It was often more than the average person," Christopher Lafreniere, with Barnes Towing, said Thursday. "It actually got to the point that he was not allowed to call a car in. If he called, we wouldn’t go out."

Neighbors have said Craig Stephen Hicks, charged with three counts of first-degree murder, always appeared to be combative and angry about the parking situation at Finley Forest, where residents are allotted one reserved spot.

Although they haven't ruled out other possible motives, police have said that they believe an ongoing parking dispute led the 46-year-old paralegal student to shoot his neighbors – Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19 – early Tuesday evening.

Lafreniere, the driver who often towed cars from the complex, said Hicks called so much that it became a problem for the tow company.

"He didn’t like people parking in his space, and he was really, really adamant," Lafreniere said. "I didn’t understand why."

Lafreniere said Hicks was also involved in a towing incident that police responded to in December 2013.

In that case, Lafreniere and a driver were in a dispute, and Hicks, who had been watching from his window, came out with a handgun and said he had called police.

"He was always nice to all of us. Friendly," Lafreniere said. "He was very adamant about towing, though, and parking."

It wasn't the only problem, according to neighbors.

Imad Ahmad, who lived in the condo where his friends were killed until Barakat married, said Hicks complained about once a month that the two men were parking in a visitor's space and their assigned spot.

"He would come over to the door, knock on the door and then have a gun on his hip saying, 'You guys need to not park here,'" said Ahmad, a graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  "He did it again after they got married."

Ahmad and his neighbors complained to the property managers, who had no comment Thursday.

"They told us to call the police if the guy came and harassed us again," Ahmad said.

"Anytime that I saw him or saw interaction with him or friends or anyone in the parking lot or myself, he was angry," Samantha Maness said. "He was very angry anytime I saw him."

Family members of the victims, however, say they believe anti-Muslim bias could have been a factor in the shootings.

Hicks, who on his Facebook page describes himself as a "gun-toting" atheist and Second Amendment rights advocate, often posted about organized religion.

The slain sisters' father, Mohammad Yousif Abu-Salha, said his older daughter had expressed concern to him about a neighbor of whom she was afraid.

"(She) felt that he was hateful and he did not like them, who they were and the way they looked," he said.

Hicks' wife, Karen Hicks, said at a news conference Wednesday, however, that her husband "champions the rights of others" and that the killings "had nothing do with religion or the victims' faith."

"This man was frustrated day in and day out about not being able to park where he wanted to," her attorney, Robert Maitland, said.

Hicks' ex-wife, Cynthia Hurley, told The Associated Press that, before they divorced about 17 years ago, his favorite movie was "Falling Down," the 1993 Michael Douglas film about a divorced, unemployed engineer on a shooting rampage.

"That always freaked me out," Hurley said. "He watched it incessantly. He thought it was hilarious. He had no compassion at all."

Police haven't said how Hicks allegedly entered the condominium, where the three students were found shot to death.

There were no visible signs Wednesday of damage to the door, affixed with orange stickers warning of biohazardous material inside. A wooden placard bearing Arabic script that translates to "Thanks to God" hung over their doorbell.


Please with your WRAL.com account to comment on this story. You also will need a Facebook account to comment.

Oldest First
View all
  • Judge Smails Feb 15, 2015
    user avatar

    The link I provided was to a tweet made by Deah Barakat and tagged as "WHITE SUPREMACY AT ITS FINEST" showing young adults working at Chik-Fil-A.

  • Judge Smails Feb 15, 2015
    user avatar

    Mr. Hicks did what he did and there is no denying that. My question is what were the conversations like and about leading up to the incident? If they had quit parking in his parking space, would any of this have happened...probably not. If the towing company had done their job as contracted, would any of this happened...probably not.

  • Alan Baker Feb 14, 2015
    user avatar

    It's interesting to see the professional machine spin into action after these events. No, the story isn't *really* about a man who shouldn't have had a gun brutally executing three unarmed kids. Instead, they'll suggest maybe they were antisemitic? (An intelligent person recognizes anything other than unequivocal support of Israel isn't necessarily antisemitism but that's not their audience.) Then, hold on, their father might have been involved with a mosque that got raided? (*He* wasn't found guilty of any crime, but we'll ignore that.) Next thing they'll tell you they grabbed for the gun or smoked pot. It's sad and sleazy and I have no idea what they get out of it, but here they are. Watch and learn.

  • Jamie Young Feb 14, 2015
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    No genius, I expect you to be intelligent enough to look for yourself. Excuse me for assuming too much.

  • David Hartman Feb 13, 2015
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    I'll agree. Shooting them wasn't an appropriate response. Neither is the MSM's portrayal of them as blameless 'Muslim victims'.

    I'm sure NC State is scrambling to throw together a mandatory 'Islamophia' class now for all students as a result.

  • Nicolle Leney Feb 13, 2015
    user avatar

    Read the NY Times story (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/13/us/chapel-hill-neighbors-say-they-felt-threatened-by-man-held-in-killings.html). Nothing has been proven that these people were parking in his assigned spot. In that article, one of the residents said that "Mr. Hicks would often seek to have cars towed from the complex’s lot, either because they did not have stickers or because he did not recognize them." The article also says "Mr. Hicks was such a disruptive presence in the Finley Forest condominium complex that last year, residents held a meeting to talk about him." It sounds like HE was the bully.

  • Christopher Rose Feb 13, 2015
    user avatar

    Wow. So If I don't think the state of Israel as it is currently constructed has legitimacy then that means I deserve to get shot in the head? Unless he was tweeting about this guy who shot him specifically David Hartman then what on earth does that have to do with anything here? On the one hand you complain that Muslims act as victims and badmouth Christians and Jewish folks from a political standpoint. But then you badmouth the guy not based on his acts but his faith and political opinions. Hello pot! What do we call the kettle here? This was my original issue. Everybody wants to turn this incident into something it's not to serve their own purposes of justifying their own unique prejudices, politics, and view of the world. He should be punished severely. Yes it appears this was a case of bad neighbor relations. They provoked a crazy guy with a gun. Smart? No. Should they have been shot? Heck no! This is not however an incident about evil Muslims who hate Israel or Islamophobia.

  • Roy Hinkley Feb 13, 2015
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    Nope, still no reason for the quotes.
    Your dislike of the media coverage does not change the fact that Mr. Hicks' actions directly caused the deaths of three people.

    Were they kind, good, saintly people? I have no idea, and it doesn't even matter. What matters is that unless Mr Hicks was acting in self defense they were victims.

    People have disagreements all the time, shooting them is not an appropriate response.

  • Arlington Stringham Feb 13, 2015
    user avatar

    Why is no one talking about the menace of Medieval Christianity? Clearly that is what is at fault here.

  • Alex Branoff Feb 13, 2015
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    Yeah I know that. The story just suggested he was referencing the gun on his hip as a way to intimidate them in an earlier argument. People are suggesting that he should of never been granted a ccw permit because of his favorite movie and violent history. I'm saying that if he was being confrontational and conspicuous about is carry pistol (in an attempt to intimidate people), the only way that can be documented is if you report it to LEO's. This isn't minority report and the sheriff's department doesn't have a pre-crime unit or a time machine.