Local News

14 firearms seized from Chapel Hill shootings suspect's home

Posted February 13, 2015 5:08 p.m. EST
Updated February 13, 2015 10:59 p.m. EST

— Investigators seized more than a dozen firearms and a cache of ammunition from the Chapel Hill home of a man charged with killing three students this week, according to search warrants released Friday.

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.

Police searched Hicks' home the night of the shootings and found two fully loaded handguns, a fully loaded AR-15 Bushmaster rifle, two shotguns, five other rifles, two other handguns and two pellet guns, according to one search warrant. They also found numerous magazines with varying amounts of ammunition, boxes of ammunition, shotgun shells, BBs, gun scopes and other gun-related items, the warrant states.

Aside from the weapons, investigators seized two desktop computers, three cellphones and a digital camera, according to the warrant.

Hicks described himself in online posts as a "gun-toting atheist."

According to the search warrants, a woman flagged down police and directed them to Barakat's and Yusor Abu-Salha's condo, saying her friend was bleeding. When officers arrived, they found Barakat dead in the front doorway bleeding from the head; one of the sisters was found in the kitchen, and the other was in the doorway to the kitchen.

A witness outside told police that he heard shots and saw a man leaving the condo and driving off in a gold car, the warrant states.

Police found eight shell casings in the living room of the condo and a bullet somewhere inside, according to a second warrant. They also seized three cellphones, a watch, two sets of keys and Barakat's wallet and keychain.

Hicks surrendered to law enforcement in Pittsboro, and investigators swabbed the driver's door handle and steering wheel of his Nissan for evidence, along with seizing his vehicle registration and insurance card, a third warrant states.

Agents with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were at the condo complex Thursday, but they wouldn't say whether they are conducting their own investigation.

Local investigators met Friday morning with FBI agents and federal and Durham County prosecutors to discuss the case. The FBI opened an inquiry into the shootings on Thursday, while the Civil Rights Section of the U.S. Department of Justice opened a parallel investigation late Friday.

Hicks' charges could go before a Durham County grand jury as early as Monday, but prosecutors said they haven't decided yet whether to pursue the death penalty.

Stephen Freedman, an attorney with the state Capital Defender's Office, has been assigned to represent Hicks. He declined to comment Friday other than to say that he met with Hicks on Wednesday.