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Photo inspires food drive in memory of Chapel Hill shooting victims

Posted March 3, 2015

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— Family members of a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill dental student gunned down at his home last month say that they have chosen to focus on the way he lived rather than the way he died, and they are doing that by helping others.

"(You) can be very sad, very angry. Or you can look at it differently," Layla Barakat said Tuesday. "He was directed to live a role-model life, and his death enlightened the whole world."

Her 23-year-old son, Deah Shaddy Barakat – along with his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19 – died Feb. 10 after police say a neighbor, Craig Stephen Hicks, shot them in the head at the couple's condominium in Chapel Hill.

Although police are still investigating possible motives, including racial bias, they believe a longstanding issue with parking at condominium complex was the catalyst for the crimes.

Family members, who have said they believe the triple shooting was a hate crime, say they want to take the focus off Hicks and put it on the three victims who left a legacy of kindness, love and generosity.

Deah Barakat and his wife – who were married in December – were raising money to travel this summer to Turkey to provide free dental care to Syrian refugees.

His last Facebook post, on Jan. 29, was a photo of him and others handing out food and dental supplies to the homeless in Durham.

"It's a reminder to many people (that) we're all going to go at some point," his brother, Farris Barakat said. "What are we doing to serve humanity? What are we doing to serve our community?"

The Facebook photo that inspired a nationwide food drive, Feed Their Legacy that is aiming to collect 100,000 cans of food by March 30. Across the county, 124 other groups are participating.

"They were involved in a lot of service projects, whether it's refugees in Syria or the homeless here in North Carolina," said Tarek El-Messidi, food drive co-founder. "We really wanted to highlight their service, and do something as a whole that gives back to the community."

The community can drop off canned goods Saturday at the Islamic Association of Raleigh, at 808 Atwater St., from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Donations will benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina and other local pantries.

"This is helping us with the grieving," said Nisma Gabr, a friend of the victims. "Their deaths were very sudden on our community, for me. They were my friends since middle school. So its a tragic loss for me, but we're going to use it in a positive way."

As the community rallies to remember the victims, prosecutors announced this week that they plan to seek the death penalty against Hicks, who faces three counts of first-degree murder.

The Barakat family declined to comment on the decision Tuesday. They met with the Durham District Attorney's Office late Tuesday afternoon to discuss the case.

"I haven't thought much of Craig Hicks or given him much thought or whatever," Farris Barakat said.

11 Comments

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  • Anne Havisham Mar 4, 2015
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    The food drive is a wonderful way of keeping alive the memory and intentions of three young people who did a lot of good in the world. May it help to ease the grief of those who knew them and help us all to contribute to a more just and generous community.

  • Mike Berthold Mar 4, 2015
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    So it is wrong to think that murdering someone over a perceived parking violation is a little excessive? That is what is wrong with this country? Might want to rethink that statement and look at what you suggest as a possible problem with America. He had legal avenues he could have perused against the landlord for failing to enforce parking if it were actually in his contract, but instead he chose to be judge, jury and executioner.

  • Jenna Brutegrrl Mar 4, 2015
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    He broke the rules against committing homicide. Criminal law trumps any private rules regarding parking arrangements.

  • Jenna Brutegrrl Mar 4, 2015
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    The other tenants had a problem with Hicks as well, yet he targeted them specifically. What did they do that was worse than what the other tenants did, such that Hicks targeted them and not the others?

  • Andi Rueny Mar 4, 2015
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    Jenna, their (the 3 deceased) and his (Hicks) actions. I am not taking up for Hicks, but it is always the one that reacts that gets all the blame. You are saying "their" actions had no involvement in the end result?

  • Jenna Brutegrrl Mar 4, 2015
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    "... their/his actions are what directly led to the shooting."

    So Hicks squeezing the trigger had nothing to do with their deaths. Gotcha.

  • Jenna Brutegrrl Mar 4, 2015
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    Hicks "broke the rules" repeatedly by annoying the towing company to the point where they refused to deal with him, and by harassing/intimidating his neighbors to the point where they were afraid of him. He went even further by breaking the established criminal code by murdering three people. By your own reasoning Hick deserves DEATH.

    End of discussion.

  • Jenna Brutegrrl Mar 4, 2015
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    First six words aren't they issue as they are nullified entirely by "...if they had followed the rules regarding parking, they would still be alive."

    So the penalty for not following the parking rules is execution? This is exactly what you are implying.

  • Mike C Mar 4, 2015
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    Cory, you need to go back and read the first six words of my first post.

  • Andi Rueny Mar 4, 2015
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    Cory, that is wrong with society today. You think it is ok to break the rules with no consequences, and it is NOT. I am not happy the 3 are dead, but their/his actions are what directly led to the shooting. Also, there are other people and students that are doing the exact same things and not receiving any press coverage for the things they are doing. I guess you have to die to be great.

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