Local News

Chapel Hill police: Parking dispute may have led to triple shooting

Posted February 10, 2015 6:13 p.m. EST
Updated April 28, 2016 2:12 p.m. EDT

— Chapel Hill police said Wednesday that an ongoing dispute over parking may have led to a triple shooting Tuesday night at a condominium complex on Summerwalk Circle.

Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, has been charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, his wife, Yusor Mohammad, 21, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19.

Hicks turned himself in to the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office in Pittsboro following the shooting, which happened in the Finley Forest complex off Barbee Chapel Road shortly after 5 p.m.

All three victims were shot in the head, sources said.

The three victims were Muslim, and Hicks is not, according to posts about atheism on his Facebook page. In thousands of posts on social media, many have now questioned whether the victims' Islamic faith was a factor in the shooting.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation's largest civil advocacy group for Muslims, called on law enforcement officials Wednesday to address speculation about a motive for the killings.

"Based on the brutal nature of this crime, the past anti-religion statements of the alleged perpetrator, the religious attire of two of the victims and the rising anti-Muslim rhetoric in American society, we urge state and federal law enforcement authorities to quickly address speculation of a possible bias motive in this case," CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad said in a statement. "Our heartfelt condolences go to the families and loved ones of the victims and to the local community."

Police said Wednesday that they are looking into what led to the "senseless and tragic act."

"We understand the concerns about the possibility that this was hate-motivated and we will exhaust every lead to determine if that is the case," Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue said in a statement. "Our thoughts are with the families and friends of these young people who lost their lives so needlessly."

U.S. Rep David Price, D-NC, released a statement Wednesday about the shooting, expressing his condolences to the community and referencing the possibility of the crime being motivated by bias.

"This appalling act of violence has shaken our community's sense of peace and reminded us once again that we still face serious barriers to mutual acceptance. We must redouble our efforts to bridge the gaps of intolerance and hatred that divide our society," Price said.

Hicks had a first court appearance Wednesday and was being held without bond at the Durham County jail. His next court date is scheduled for March 4, and officials said he is cooperating with the investigation.

Barakat, a second-year dental student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, married Yusor Mohammad in late December, according to school officials. Barakat got an business administration degree from North Carolina State University in the spring of 2013.

According to a page on YouCaring.com, a free online fundraising website, Barakat was one of the organizers of an effort to raise money to provide free dental care to students of the Salaam School in Turkey. Barakat and others were scheduled to travel to Turkey in the summer of 2015 to treat children who have become refugees due to the ongoing Syrian civil war.

Mohammad graduated from NC State in December with a degree in biological sciences, and officials at UNC said she was planning to begin dental studies in Chapel Hill this fall.

Abu-Salha, Mohammad's younger sister, was a sophomore at NC State and a graduate of Athens Drive High School in Raleigh. University officials said she was majoring in design.

"On behalf of the entire NC State community, I'd like to extend our deepest condolences to the families and friends of Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad and Razan Abu-Salha," NC State Chancellor Randy Woodson said in statement.

Woodson said counselors would be available to assist the NC State community. They can be reached at 919-515-2423.

A memorial page honoring the way the victims lived their lives was started on Facebook early Wednesday.

A spokesperson for Durham Technical Community College said Wednesday that Hicks has been enrolled at the school since 2012 studying for a paralegal certification.

The shootings came as a surprise to Bethany Boring, who encountered police cars, crime scene tape and people visibly upset when she stepped out of her home to walk her dog.

"It's a very quiet community," she said. "It's a lot of graduate and professional students. You know, professional's families."

Daniel Waggoner echoed Boring's description of the neighborhood.

"I'm up late. I come home late, and it's always quiet when I get here," he said. "So I mean, yeah, it's surprising."

A campus crime alert from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was sent to students. The complex is located near campus.