Photo inspires food drive in memory of Chapel Hill shooting victims
Posted March 3, 2015
Raleigh, N.C. — 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.