UPDATE: The Tuesday shooting of three Muslim college students may have been motivated by a mundane dispute — over parking spaces.
The Associated Press reported Wednesday that 46-year-old Craig Stephen Hicks, the suspected shooter, has been cooperative with police and that the preliminary results of the police investigation reveal the shooting was the result of neighbors arguing about parking spots.
Those killed Tuesday were identified as 23-year-old Deah Shaddy Barakat and 21-year-old Yusor Mohammad, both of Chapel Hill, and 19-year-old Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, of Raleigh.
Three young adults were shot and killed Tuesday afternoon at an apartment complex in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Police said they charged Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, of Chapel Hill with three counts of first degree murder, local media reported. WRAL reported that Hicks turned himself in to the Chatham County Sherriff’s office following the shooting.
Those killed were identified as Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, Yusor Mohammad, 21, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, all residents of North Carolina. The student newspaper reported that Barakat and Mohammed were a husband and wife, and the youngest victim was the wife's sister.
The British newspaper the Independent reported that all three were Muslim - later confirmed by a Muslim advocacy group - and a photo posted on a Facebook page dedicated to them showed the two women wearing the Muslim head covering the hijab.
Chapel Hill police officers investigate the scene of shooting 3 confirmed dead near Summerwalk Circle in Chapel Hill. pic.twitter.com/au4fxAZYnm— Al Drago (@Al_Drago) February 11, 2015
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s student newspaper, the Daily Tar Heel, provided more information on those killed, two of whom were students and one about to begin her studies. It wrote:
According to an Alert Carolina message released by UNC early Wednesday morning, Deah Barakat was a second-year student in the UNC School of Dentistry. Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, his wife, was planning to begin her dental studies at UNC in the fall. Her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, was a student at N.C. State University.
The Daily Tar Heel reported that relatives of those killed were kept outside the Finley Forest Condominiums for hours as police investigated. It described the agonizing scene:
The clock ticks to 7:42 p.m. Another woman breaks down after inquiring from police about her daughter and son-in-law.
At 8:05 p.m., a father screams, “It’s been hours! Just tell me if he’s alive!”
At 8:28 p.m., an uncle runs toward officers, begging for information about his nephew.
The Facebook page “Our Three Winners” was set up Tuesday night with messages purporting to be from the victims’ families, promising updates on funeral arrangements. It also posted this photo which TheBlaze is unable to independently verify is of the victims:
“It sorrows us all to see what has happened here today. Please rely on each other and remember these beautiful souls in your happy thoughts. Their faith meant a lot to them, and it is in fact what helps us all feel at peace with the tragedy of their murder,” read the appeal on Facebook.
The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Hicks, the alleged shooter, shared links about atheism on what appears to be his Facebook page.
One of the Facebook posts presented this quote: “People say nothing can solve the Middle East problem, not mediation, not arms, not financial aid. I say there is something. Atheism.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) urged police to investigate a possible anti-Muslim motive to the shootings.
"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," said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad in a statement Wednesday.
The Washington Post reported that the Muslim advocacy group’s communications director Ibrahim Hooper said he had heard “unsubstantiated reports” from local Muslims that the victims had previous interactions with Hicks, including an argument over a parking spot.
As of this writing, police had not issued any information regarding motive.
This story has been updated.