3 Muslim Students Murdered Near UNC Chapel Hill Campus

Three Muslim students were killed in their apartment near the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus early Tuesday evening

Officers of the Chapel Hill Police Department responded to reports of a shooting in the Finley Forest Condominiums complex at 5:11 PM. Three victims were soon discovered and all were pronounced dead at the scene.

The last update posted to the Alert Carolina website at 3:52 AM and said, “The Chapel Hill Police Department has released additional information this morning about Tuesday’s shooting near campus that claimed the lives of three people. It is with deep sadness that we share with you the news that the victims included Deah Barakat, a second year student in the School of Dentistry, and his wife, Yusor, who had planned to begin her dental studies here in the fall. Her sister, Razan, a student at N.C. State University, was also killed. Chancellor Folt will issue a campus message later this morning when we have more details.”

Deah Shaddy Barakat (23), Yusor Mohammad(21) and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha (19) tragically lost their lives at the hands of Craig Stephen Hicks as he shot each in the head.

Hicks has since turned himself in to the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office in Pitsboro. He is being charged with three counts of first-degree murder. Police haven’t yet confirmed what drove Hicks to commit these heinous acts.

Lt. Joshua Mecimore, a police spokesman, said “Our preliminary investigation indicated that the crime was motivated by an ongoing neighbor dispute over parking. Hicks is cooperating with investigators.”

However, speculation abounds that the shooting may have been racially motivated. This assumption is supported by one of his recent Facebook posts in which he allegedly wrote “When it comes to insults, your religion started this, not me. If your religion kept its big mouth shut, so would I.”

Another questionable post was made on January 27th in which he shared a photo saying, “People say nothing can solve the Middle East problem. Not mediation, not arms, not financial aid. I say there is something. Atheism.”

The murders and possible connection to the faith of the victims has sparked outrage as the hashtags #MuslimLivesMatter and #chapelhillshooting have taken social media by storm.

In a statement to WRAL, Nihad Awad, CAIR’s National Executive Director, said “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 state and federal law enforcement authorities to quickly address speculation of a possible bias motive in this case. Our heartfelt condolences go to the families and loved ones of the victims and to the local community.”

The loss of lives in such a violent way is always tragic, but this situation is made all the more heart wrenching given that Deah and Yusor were newly married just one month ago. To add further sadness to this incident, Razan also happens to be Yusor’s sister. The pain the family and friends of these three students must me tremendous and unfathomable to most.

Deah’s brother, Farris touched in his pain in a Facebook post saying, “I haven’t even begun to fully comprehend what has happened. But I know for sure those three together have done so much we are all proud of. No reason to stop being proud now.”

Farris has also created a Facebook page title “Our 3 Winners” as a tribute to the victims and a celebration of their lives.

A full statement from UNC Chancellor Carol Folt is expected Wednesday and a brief acknowledgment of the shootings was all that was offered on Tuesday.

“We are sensitive to the impact an incident of this nature has on campus and in the community. We understand you want to know the facts as quickly as possible. At the same time, we must respect the job our Chapel Hill Police have as they investigate this crime,” the school said, according to CNN.

The online campaign, “Project: Refuge Smiles”, which was lead by Deah has seen a surge of donations flow through since his death was announced. The campaign had an original goal of $20,000, which has been surpassed as current donations sit at $44,114. The rush of donations for a cause so near to Deah’s heart stands as a testament to his character and how others feel about him.

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