CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — 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.”
Hicks was being held without bond early Wednesday in the Durham County jail. He is scheduled to make a first court appearance Wednesday morning, 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.
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 is listed on her Facebook page as a student at North Carolina State University, and officials at UNC said she was planning to begin dental studies in Chapel Hill this fall.
Abu-Salha, Mohammad’s younger sister, is listed as a sophomore at NC State and a graduate of Athens Drive High School in Raleigh.
A memorial page honoring the way the victims lived their lives was started on Facebook early Wednesday.
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.