Three members of a Muslim family shot to death Tuesday in their home near the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus may have been killed over a parking dispute.
The suspect, 46-year-old Craig Stephen Hicks, surrendered and was arrested on charges of first-degree murder. He is accused of killing Deah Barakat, 23, Barakat’s wife, Yusor Abu-Salha, 23, and Yusor’s sister, Razan Abu-Salha, 21.
Police responded to reports of gunshots at about 5:15 p.m., Tuesday, when they found the victims’ bodies. The shooting happened in a neighborhood that is mostly rental apartments where students live, and crime there is low, according to the News and Observer.
That night, frantic parents waited outside Finley Finest Condominiums, where police were investigating the triple homicide, the Daily Tarheel reports. One mother broke down in tears after she inquired about her daughter and son-in-law, while a father screamed, “It’s been hours! Just tell me if he’s alive!”On Wednesday, police said the motive behind the shooting may have been an ongoing neighbor dispute over parking, rather than a hate crime, WNCN reports.“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. Our thoughts are with the families and friends of these young people who lost their lives so needlessly,” Chief Chris Blue of the Chapel Hill Police Department said at a press conference.
Still, the gruesome scene has sparked an outcry on Facebook and Twitter, as word circulated that Hicks described himself as an “anti-theist” and criticized religions online, according to The Independent. That revelation, as well as a lack of media attention to the shooting Tuesday night, reportedly led to a “#MuslimLivesMatter” hashtag.