Speculation on motive surrounds the killings of Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha and Razan Abu-Salha.
Our Three Winners' Facebook page /


Craig Stephen Hicks was indicted Monday on three counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of three young people in Chapel Hill.  Deah Barakat, 23, his wife, Yusor Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister, Razan Abu-Salha, 19, were shot to death inside their condominium in the Finley Forest community.

The parents of the deceased believe their children were targeted because of their faith. Chapel Hill police say the shooting was over an ongoing parking dispute, but local and federal law enforcement officials are still considering other motives like religious bias.

President Obama
Pete Souza

President Obama is renewing his support for Muslim-Americans in the wake of the shootings that killed three students in Chapel Hill last week.  The White House is hosting a  three-day summit on countering violent extremism.  The President said yesterday the country continues to face challenges to its security.

The President says the nation is not at war with Islam, but at war with terrorists.

Watch the President's address at the summit:

Photo: Mohammed Elgamal, chairman of the Islamic Association of Raleigh, and leaders from national Muslim advocacy organizations.
Jorge Valencia

When three young Muslim people were killed in a Chapel Hill apartment last week, their families, friends and advocates from around the world said they knew why: Their neighbor shot them because he hated their religion.

Chapel Hill police didn’t deny that claim, but didn’t validate it either. Within a day of the shooting, authorities said the neighbor, Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, had been disgruntled over a parking space.

As it turns out, there are wide discrepancies between establishing a hate crime in a court room and a hate crime in the court of public opinion.

Outrage over the murder of three young Muslim Americans in North Carolina last week has gone international. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation said Saturday that the killings reflected "Islamophobia" and "bear the symptoms of a hate crime," but local authorities say they don't yet know what motivated the murders.

The man held responsible for the killings is an avowed atheist. Whether that's relevant in this case is not clear, but some experts see a new extremism developing among some atheists.

Yusor Abu-Salha was killed Tuesday night, along with her husband Deah Barakat and her sister Razan Abu-Salha.

Thousands of people gathered on the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill campus last night to remember three students who were shot to death on Tuesday: Yusor Abu-Salha, Razan Abu-Salha and Deah Barakat.

Last year, Yusor came to the StoryCorps booth in Durham with her former elementary school teacher Mussarut Jabeen.  Jabeen is principal of Al-Iman School in Raleigh.  During the StoryCorps interview, the two women discussed their lives, hopes and dreams for the future.

Reactions To Chapel Hill Shooting

Feb 11, 2015
Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha and Razan Abu-Salha were shot and killed in a Chapel Hill apartment complex.
deah.barakat /


Three students were killed near the University of North Carolina campus in Chapel Hill last night. A neighbor has been arrested and is being held in the Durham County Jail. 

'Our Three Winners' Facebook page

Forty-six-year-old Craig Stephen Hicks has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder for the killings of Deah Barakat, a second-year student in the UNC School of Dentistry and his wife, Yusor, who had planned to begin her dental studies at UNC in the fall. Yusor's sister, Razan, a student at NC State University, was also killed. We will continue to update this story as information becomes available.

Updated Monday, February 23, 10:15 a.m. has created a map of vigils and gatherings related to the shootings and the hashtag #OurThreeWinners

Updated Thursday, February 19 10:30 a.m.

President Obama includes the Chapel Hill shootings in an address at the White House during a summit on violent extremist. Here's a video of the full address:

Updated Thursday, February 19 7:00 a.m.

Much of the discussion about the motive behind the Chapel Hill shooting is whether it was a hate crime. Many in the Muslim community and on social media say it is, but police have not. Jorge Valencia filed this report today about the decision the police face, and the intricacies of a legal hate crime designation.

Updated Monday February 16 5:10 p.m.

A grand jury has indicted Craig Stephen Hicks in the murder of three young Muslims in Chapel Hill, reports Jorge Valencia. Hicks turned himself into authorities last week, just hours after the shooting of Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu Salha and Razan Abu Salha. Now a grand jury believes there's enough evidence to pursue a felony case against Hicks. He's charged with first-degree murder and discharging a firearm into a dwelling. Chapel Hill police are still investigating and say Hicks may have been motivated by a parking dispute. Family and advocates around the world say Hicks was acting out of a bias against Muslims. 

Updated Monday February 16 10:50 a.m.

Qatar students and community hold solidarity walk for Chapel Hill victims. The march was Sunday and began at the Hamad Bin Khalifa University.

Read more about this march

Hear Phoebe Judge's conversation with a BBC news analyst about the Qatar march

Update Friday February 13 3 p.m.

The White House issued a statement by the President:

"Yesterday, the FBI opened an inquiry into the brutal and outrageous murders of Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, Deah Shaddy Barakat, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  In addition to the ongoing investigation by local authorities, the FBI is taking steps to determine whether federal laws were violated.  No one in the United States of America should ever be targeted because of who they are, what they look like, or how they worship.  Michelle and I offer our condolences to the victims’ loved ones.  As we saw with the overwhelming presence at the funeral of these young Americans, we are all one American family.  Whenever anyone is taken from us before their time, we remember how they lived their lives – and the words of one of the victims should inspire the way we live ours."

“Growing up in America has been such a blessing,” Yusor said recently.  “It doesn’t matter where you come from.  There’s so many different people from so many different places, of different backgrounds and religions – but here, we’re all one.”

Thursday evening, the FBI announced it is looking into the murders. In a statement, the FBI said it has opened a "parallel preliminary inquiry". They're looking to determine if federal laws were violated. Agents will assist local police to process evidence from the triple-homicide.

Update Thursday February 12 2:58 p.m.

Frank Stasio joined Dr. Omid Safi, director of Duke University's Islamic Studies Center to talk about the events on the nationally syndicated program, The Takeaway. Listen to the audio here.

"If these acts happen in your community, then they are a part of your community, they are a part of your legacy." - Dr. Omid Safi

Update Thursday February 12 11:48 a.m.

The Islamic Association of Raleigh will lead funeral prayers for the three shooting victims today. The funeral prayer will follow the midday prayer at 1:35. NC State University will host a vigil at the Brickyard tonight at 6.

Update Thursday February 12 11:13 a.m.

Update Thursday February 12 10:49 a.m.

One of the victims of the shooting, Yusor Abu-Salha, came to the StoryCorps Mobile Booth when it visited Durham, NC last summer.  >> Listen

Update 8:51 a.m. Thursday Feb 12

Hundreds of people gathered at UNC Chapel Hill last night to remember the three Muslims killed in a nearby shooting, and to support their families.

Farris Barakat is the older brother of victim Deah Barakat. He spoke of the three at the vigil last night. He asked the big crowd to live in their legacy.

"That you share the good that you know of them, and take the message that my mom wanted to make public and 'do not fight fire with fire," Barakat said.

>>WUNC's Jorge Valencia and Reema Khrais both attended the event. Here are their reports.

Update Wednesday February 11 8:44 p.m.

Update Wednesday February 11 8:11 p.m.

"You can't see where the crowd ends" at the vigil to honor the three slain students, reports Jorge Valencia.

Update Wednesday February 11 6:00 p.m.

There is a vigil this evening at 6:30 p.m. at the UNC "Pit." Prior to the vigil, at 6 p.m., a prayer service will be held in the Great Hall of the Carolina Union. Parking will be available in the Bell Tower lot.

Update Wednesday February 11 5:31 p.m.

Nada Salem was best friends with the two young women who died. The 21-year-old Muslim woman told reporter Reema Khrais that she strongly believes the crime was motivated by hate.

Salem points to something that happened a few months ago. She had gone over to the couple's house for dinner.

After she went home, her friend Yusor texted to say that their neighbor, Hicks, had come by, complaining that that young people had been "really loud and disrespectful."

And then, Yusor texted, Hicks "pointed to his gun and his pocket and he said 'I don't want this to happen again.'"

Salem had plans to attend UNC School of Dentistry with Yusor. She says not too long ago the couple gave her her first Carolina Dentistry sweater. The two women wanted to wear the sweaters to school at the same time.

"So that we can be matching and we can tell everyone we got in together; and two days ago she texted me again with [the sweater] picture saying that she can't wait for us to start again…together at dental school," says Salem. "It's like a daze for me, personally, I just don't want to believe it."

KKK members take weapons from the back of a car prior to the shooting between them and members of the Workers Viewpoint Organization/Communist Workers Party on Nov. 3, 1979.
News & Record file photo

In 1979 a clash between white supremacist groups and protestors in Greensboro left five dead and 12 badly injured.   The incident gained national attention and over the past 36 years the city has undergone a number of programs to try and provide some reconciliation.  But a new move by the North Carolina Highway Advisory Marker Committee is drawing some controversy. 

Joseph Sledge and his attorney Christine Mumma 1/23/15
Jorge Valencia

A man held in a North Carolina prison for most of his life was released on Friday, after a special panel found he had been wrongfully convicted of a double murder in 1976.

Following a brief hearing in Columbus County, a specially appointed three-judge panel found Joseph Sledge had proven he was innocent of the stabbing deaths of a mother and her adult daughter in neighboring Bladen County.

Photo: UNC School of Law
Photo by Caroline Culler

Prosecutors, defense attorneys, activists and former police officers will discuss the deaths of unarmed minorities at the hands of law enforcement at a forum at the University of North Carolina School of Law today.

The forum, organized by law school professors, will include three panels examining civil rights, self defense, and the use of force from legal, historical and activist perspectives, said Associate Professor Tamar Birckhead, one of the organizers.