Chapel Hill Shooting Updates

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.

AtlantaMuslim.com 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

Yusor Abu-Salha. Images taken summer of 2014 at StoryCorps Durham, NC.
Credit StoryCorps

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.

Vigil for slain UNC college students, February 11, 2015
Credit Jorge Valencia via Twitter

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.

Hicks '...pointed to his gun and his pocket and he said 'I don't want this to happen again.'

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."

'One of the best'

Nazimi Albadawi was also good friends with the sisters' family, and with Deah Barakat. Albadawi is 23 years old, and says the murder of his friend is more than personal; he says it's a tragedy for the Muslim community in North Carolina. The families of the victims are some of the most generous people he knows.

Albadawi says that he and many others looked up to Barakat.

"He was one of the best people I know, definitely a role model for everyone in the community. He was honestly one of the best people I met in my life," says Albadawi.

Update Wednesday February 11 5:22 p.m.

Update 4:36 p.m.

Update Wednesday February 11 4:23 p.m.

The Chapel Hill police acknowledge there are concerns the shootings could have been hate-motivated, and they say they will investigate every lead to determine whether that's the case. But at this point, they continue to believe the crime was motivated by an ongoing dispute over parking between Hicks and his neighbors.

Hicks had his first appearance in court before a Durham County judge this morning. District Attorney Roger Echols asked the judge to deny him bond.

To determine whether Hicks was eligible to be appointed a public defender, Durham County Judge Marcia Morey asked Hicks about his income and his expenses.

"My wife took care of all that," Hicks said.

The judge said Hicks would be appointed a public defender and scheduled him to appear in court again on March 4.

Update Wednesday February 11  3:46 p.m.

WUNC's Jorge Valencia was at the courtroom today where Craig Stephen Hicks was arraigned. (Hicks  turned himself in to authorities last night, and he has been held at the Durham County Jail without bond.)

Valencia reports:

'What if it had been the other way around? What if the suspected perpetrator had been a Muslim man who killed three people who were, let's say, Christians?'

"People all over the world are talking about this. The picture that they're seeing is that there's a man who, he'd gone on Facebook and he'd written extensively about how he was an atheist (this is Mr. Hicks).

"And then he killed three of his neighbors, two of whom were young women who wore hijabs.

"So the picture that [the public is] seeing is that there's an atheist who killed three Muslims.

"So the question that people are asking is: 'What if it had been the other way around? What if the suspected perpetrator had been a Muslim man who killed three people who were, let's say, Christians?'

"So [Muslims] are very upset about that. They want it to be taken seriously. People are saying, 'Hang on a second, maybe this is about a lot more than a parking space.'

"People want to make sure there isn't a double standard here."

Update Wednesday February 11  3:16 p.m.

'There are folks from the Muslim community who are raising questions and trying to make sense of all this and trying to piece it together.'

WUNC's Reema Khrais has been talking with friends and family members of the deceased young people for a report that will air later today.

Khrais says that though the police are indicating that the shooting is likely over a parking dispute, many Muslims want to make sure that the possibility that the shooting is a hate crime is fully explored.

"If you look at social media and based on the conversations that I had with Muslims in the community and their friends, I think when you hear that someone barges into someone's apartment and kills three unarmed young Muslims, it makes sense that lots of folks have been quick to say that it could be a hate crime," says Khrais.

"The Chapel Hill Police have come out and said that this was likely over a parking dispute, and I talked with the brother of Deah Barakat who was shot, and he told me that allegedly this neighbor had gone into this apartment before, over parking, and this was an issue that they had dealt with in the past.

"There are folks from the Muslim community who are raising questions and trying to make sense of all this and trying to piece it together. And it's just, I think, a lot to take in. It's a huge tragedy for the Muslim community.

"Everyone I talked with this morning had amazing things to say about [the young people.] How they were role models in the community, and how they couldn't understand why anything like this would even happen," says Khrais.

Update Wednesday February 11  3:13 p.m.

From Randy Woodson, NC State Chancellor:

There is a moment of silence planned during the NC State basketball game at PNC Arena tonight against the University of Virginia. There will be a candlelight vigil tomorrow, Feb. 12, hosted by the Muslim Student Association from 6-8 p.m. on the Brickyard. The vigil is open to the community.

Senseless acts like this go against all of our beliefs. As I wrote in my most recent web letter to the campus community, a core value of NC State is respect for diversity in all its forms. We strive to maintain an environment where everyone feels safe, respected and valued.

Update 2:19 p.m.

Update 2:12 p.m.

The News & Observer reports that the father of the two female victims, Dr. Mohammad Abu-Salha, is calling the triple murder a hate crime.

"It was execution style, a bullet in every head. This was not a dispute over a parking space; this was a hate crime. This man had picked on my daughter and her husband a couple of times before, and he talked with them with his gun in his belt. And they were uncomfortable with him, but they did not know he would go this far.” >>Read the full story.

Update 1:30 p.m.

Two 9-1-1 calls have been released. One caller indicated that she heard "kids screaming," and between five and 10 shots.

911 operator: Were they screaming words, or?

Caller: No, just them screaming, and it was multiple voices.

Another caller heard around eight shots.

"I hid behind a car. And then I waited...and I never heard gun shots before like that."


Update Wednesday February 11  1:12 p.m.

Update Wednesday February 11  12:44 p.m.

The suspect in the shooting deaths of three relatives near the University of North Carolina campus has made a first court appearance on murder charges. Forty-six-year-old Craig Stephen Hicks appeared briefly in an orange jumpsuit and shackles Wednesday morning. District Judge Marcia Morey said he would be appointed a public defender for the three counts of first-degree murder. She scheduled a probable cause hearing for March 4. He will be held without bond.

Update Wednesday February 11  12:32 p.m.

A vigil will be held Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Peace and Justice Plaza in Chapel Hill.

Update Wednesday February 11  12:23 p.m.

Chapel Hill mayor Mark Kleinschmidt says the Chapel Hill Police Department is "using all available resources to determine whether hate was a motivating factor."

All we know for certain at this time is that it was a senseless and tragic act surrounding a longstanding dispute.

I share strong feelings of outrage and shock with my fellow citizens and University students -- as well as concerned people everywhere. We do not know whether anti-Muslim bias played a role in this crime, but I do recognize the fear that members of our community may feel.  Chapel Hill is a place for everyone, a place where Muslim lives matter. >>Full statement.

Update 11:51 a.m.

Omar Abdelbaky is a third-year student at UNC's School of Dentistry. Abdelbaky was friends with one of the victims, Deah Barakat. Abdelbaky is Muslim as were the victims. Though police have said that early signs in the investigation indicate that the killing is related to a parking dispute, Abdelbaky says that when he heard the news, his thoughts turned to the possibility that the crime was a hate crime.

'When three Muslims, especially ... like, two that wear scarves, where they are like clearly identified as Muslims are shot in their apartment it's... hate crime definitely comes to mind.'

"There's just so much Islamophobic rhetoric going around on social media, on the actual media. And of course when three Muslims, especially ... like, two that wear scarves, where they are like clearly identified as Muslims are shot in their apartment it's... hate crime definitely comes to mind," Abdelbaky says.

Abdelbaky attended Deah Barakat and Yusor Abu-Salha's wedding in December. He says that at that time, the couple was thrilled that Yusor had gotten into UNC's School of Dentistry, where Deah was already a student.

"So I was at the wedding, and I know [Yusor] had just gotten into dental school and Deah was so excited that she got into UNC dental because that means that they would be together at the same dental school, and if she had gotten in to somewhere else, there would be a chance that they wouldn't be in dental school at the same place. I remember he was just so, so excited," remembers Abdelbaky.

Nazmi Albadawi is a 23-year-old Muslim man who went to NC State with Deah Barakat.  Albadawi is best friends with Yusor and Razan's brother. He says that the victims were a part of a tight-knit Muslim community in North Carolina.

"The fact that it's these two families that are so well known, so well respected and so well liked... it makes it even...it hurts everyone. It's like everyone lost a member of their family, almost," says Albadawi.

Update  Wednesday February 11 11:15 a.m.:

Response from Jane A. Weintraub, Dean and Alumni Distinguished Professor, UNC Dental School:

We are heartbroken and grief-stricken by last night’s devastating news, the incredible loss to our school and to the entire Carolina Community. One of the shooting victims killed at an off-campus condominium complex has been identified as second-year dental student Deah Barakat. His wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, and his wife’s sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha were also killed in the shooting. Yusor was recently admitted as a member of the incoming DDS Class of 2019. Razan was a sophomore at N.C. State University.

Deah was especially close to those of us at the School of Dentistry. A member of DDS 2017, Deah was known for his kindness, service-driven heart, love of basketball and his sincerity. A native of Raleigh, Deah earned his bachelor’s in business administration from N.C. State in 2013 prior to being admitted into our dental program. Deah was involved in many aspects of our dental school - including research with the Department of Pediatric Dentistry, serving as a co-president of the new Dental Student Ambassadors group and leading the charge for a dental mission trip to Turkey. He was well loved and respected within these walls, and we will feel his loss deeply.

Deah and Yusor were newlyweds, just recently married in December. Yusor, as many of you know, worked with the North Carolina Missions of Mercy clinics - like many of you did and continue to do - prior to her admission to dental school. We were all looking forward to getting to know her as a member of the UNC dental family beginning in April, and we grieve her loss as well. ...

This is an incredible tragedy for our school, the dental community and the University. Today, everyone here is grieving. Our deepest sympathy goes out to their families and friends.

Update 10:58 a.m.

Update Wednesday February 11 10:57 a.m.

Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha was a student at NC State’s College of Design.

Update Wednesday February 11  10:28 a.m.

One of the victims, Deah Barakat, was raising money to help Syrian refugees with their dental needs, according to friends who provided a link to a fundraising video about the trip.

"Have you ever felt helpless about the situation in Syria and felt like you can't do anything about it? Well, this is your opportunity to help," says Barakat.

"This summer I am embarking on a trip to Turkey with 10 dentists to help Syrian refugee students in need of urgent dental care. We'll be doing extractions, fillings, root canals and oral hygiene instruction to those most in need."

The group planned to pass out toothbrushes and toothpaste in the refugee camps.

Update Wednesday February 11 10:18 a.m.

UNC- Chapel Hill's school newspaper The Daily Tarheel provided this vivid coverage from the crime scene last night:

It’s 7:17 p.m. and a woman is sitting on a curb on Summerwalk Circle, face in her hands, sobbing.

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.

Read full article here.

Update 10:00 a.m.

Credit Twitter: @arabprodigy30

The Chapel Hill shooting is making national and international news.

"Residents of the area where the shooting took place were understandably shocked," said Razia Iqbal on the BBC NewsHour.

A resident of the neighborhood said: "I'm kind of in shock, I'm really confused and I have been since 5:30. It's kind of turned the neighborhood upside-down."

WUNC Morning News Producer Rebecca Martinez spoke with Iqbal about the developments in the case so far.

Update Wednesday February 11 9:48 a.m.

Police have released a statement which indicates that the shooting was not a hate crime.

Our preliminary investigation indicates that the crime was motivated by an ongoing neighbor dispute over parking.  Hicks is cooperating with investigators and more information may be released at a later time.

“Our investigators are exploring what could have motivated Mr. Hicks to commit such a senseless and tragic act.  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,” said Chief Chris Blue of the Chapel Hill Police Department.

Update Wednesday February 11 9:40 a.m.

Friends of the three shooting victims have created a Facebook page with more information about the young people. The page includes photos of Deah Shaddy Barakat and Yusor Abu-Salha at their wedding which friends say was a month ago.

Original story:
Chapel Hill Police say they have arrested a suspect in the shooting deaths of three people at the Finley Forest condominiums east of the UNC Campus.

46-year-old Craig Stephen Hicks has been charged with 3 counts of 1st Degree Murder for the murders of 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 NC State University, was also killed.

According to a police statement at 5:11 p.m. Chapel Hill Police Officers responded to a report of gunshots in the area of Summerwalk Circle in Chapel Hill.  When officers arrived, they located three subjects who had been shot.  All three subjects were pronounced dead at the scene.

WUNC has two reporters covering the news today. We will bring you more as the story develops.