UNC Muslim murders: Police, suspect's wife cite parking dispute; family says hate crime

Craig Stephen Hicks is accused of murdering three Muslims over parking
(Image credit: The Associated Press/YouTube)

Police say that Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, murdered three Muslim-American students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, on Tuesday, and their "preliminary investigation indicates that the crime was motivated by an ongoing neighbor dispute over parking." Hicks' wife, Karen, was more direct: "I can say with absolute belief that this incident had nothing to do with religion or the victims' faith, but it was related to a longstanding parking dispute that my husband had with the neighbors."

But the family of the three young victims — newlyweds Deah Shaddy Barakat and Yusor Mohammad, and Mohammad's sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha — call parking an unlikely motive. They aren't alone. News of the murders has spread across the world, and spread fear through North Carolina's Muslim community, already on edge after the Charlie Hebdo murders in France, The New York Times 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," said Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue in a statement.

Neighbors in the condominium complex where Hicks and the victims lived describe Hicks as frequently angry and confrontational over people parking in front of his apartment, as well as noise. On Wednesday night, thousands of people crowded into the Pit, the central plaza of the University of North Carolina (where Barakat was a dental student), in a show of solidarity with the victims and their family. Watch The Associated Press' report below for more details. —Peter Weber

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at TheWeek.com, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.