CHAPEL HILL, N.C., (Reuters) – A gunman who had posted anti-religious messages on Facebook and quarreled with neighbours was charged with killing three young Muslims in what police said yesterday was a dispute over parking and possibly a hate crime.
Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, a full-time paralegal student from Chapel Hill, was charged with first-degree murder in Tuesday’s shootings around 5 p.m. (2200 GMT) two miles (three km) from the University of North Carolina campus.
The victims were newlyweds Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, a University of North Carolina dental student, and his wife Yusor Mohammad, 21, and Yusor’s sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19.
All were involved in humanitarian aid programs.
Students at UNC, where Yusor Mohammad was going to join her husband as a student later this year, gathered on Wednesday for an evening vigil and prayer service.
The suspect, in handcuffs and orange jail garb, appeared briefly on Wednesday before a Durham County judge who ordered him held without bail pending a March 4 probable cause hearing.
Police said a preliminary investigation showed the motive to be a parking dispute. They said Hicks, who has no criminal history in Chapel Hill, turned himself in and was cooperating.
The killings drew international condemnation. The shooting sparked the hashtag #MuslimLives Matter on social media with many posters assailing what they called a lack of news coverage.