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Chapel Hill residents say killings won't define town

Posted February 13, 2015

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— The shooting deaths of three students in their Chapel Hill condominium this week has attracted international attention, mainly because the three victims were Muslim and their families have called their deaths a hate crime.

Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23; his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21; and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, were found dead Tuesday evening at the newlywed couple's home about 3 miles from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus.

Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, who lived in the same condominium complex as the victims, is charged with three counts of first-degree murder. He is being held at Central Prison in Raleigh.

A memorial has sprung up near the crime scene, and vigils have been held in Chapel Hill to honor the three victims, and Chapel Hill residents and UNC-Chapel Hill students said the town known for its tolerance will rise above the shootings and won't be defined by them.

"If anything, I think it made (the town image) stronger because, with all of the people coming out to support them, I think it showed good support for the Muslim community," student Soo Kim said.

Resident Darryl Harris said Chapel Hill's image may be tarnished to some but not the majority of people.

"People who know and have attended the great university here, UNC, and have lived in this town, the Carrboro-Chapel Hill area, know that's not commonplace," Harris said. "It's a good town."

Student Jazzra Standley said the shootings could have happened anywhere and shouldn't be linked to Chapel Hill.

"It didn't have to happen in Chapel Hill. It would have been wrong whether it was here or in any other town," Standley said. "I think it actually helped our community come together and realize that we have all this support and that we are one big family."

However, student Danielle Allyn said negative fallout from the shootings could be constructive for the town.

"I think it forces us out of our complacency," Allyn said.

Resident Robin Keairns said it will take a while for the community to recover.

"That sort of thing does not happen here," Keairns said. "It will take a while because I think a lot of people are in shock."

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  • Todd Whalen Feb 14, 2015
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    Why would this even "define" our town? What a ludicrous question. One guy lost his cool over a parking spot (see long history of this issue) and now we're asking if this will define us or if this is a hate crime. If we were a small podunk town with nothing else, then maybe it could "define" us. And based on the facts about his past history of parking spot issues, it's pretty clear, he snapped and couldn't take it anymore. Tragic indeed but not town defining or hate based. Unless hating someone that takes your spot is now a federal crime. If so, lock us all up for hating when someone takes the spot closest to the mall door because it was "my" spot.