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, 21, and Yusor’s sister, Razan Abu-Salha, 19.
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 Forest 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!”
“Why do I cry?” Farris Barakat, Deah’s brother, wrote on Facebook. “So many times I’ve grabbed my phone to text my brother, Yusor, and Razan. Except seconds later I realize that I’ve taken them for granted and imagine their phone laying by their bodies. That’s not okay guys.”
On Wednesday, police said the motive behind the shooting may have been an ongoing neighbor dispute over parking, rather than a hate crime.
“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.
UPDATE 3:15 P.M.: In a press conference, Hicks’ wife of seven years, Karen, said she “never would have expected this,” but said that the shooting had nothing to do with race or religion, and everything to do with parking problems.
“This incident had nothing to do with religion or victims’ faith but instead had to do with the longstanding parking disputes that my husband had with the neighbors,” she said, choking back tears. “He often champions on his Facebook page for the rights of many individuals. Same sex marriages, abortion, race, he just believes that everyone is equal. Doesn’t matter what you look like or who you are or what you believe.”
Karen Hicks in a press conference on Wednesday.
She said she didn’t know what drove Hicks to allegedly shoot three people over a parking spat, but her lawyers said that the suspect didn’t single out the victims and had problems with other neighbors in the past….