In what has been tagged as a “hate crime” by many, three young students of the University of North Carolina have been gunned down in their Chapel Hill campus condominium apartment.
The trio of the deceased, comprising a newlywed couple and the bride’s younger sister, were murdered in cold blood by Craig Stephen Hicks, a 46-year old self-proclaimed atheist neighbor that has been said to have been nursing a longstanding grudge with his victims.
Given the assailant’s religious inclination and the comments he apparently left on a Facebook page, it has been brought to question if his faith had a major role to play in inspiring his heinous act.
Though the Police, as well as the wife of the assailant, are saying the incident which occurred Tuesday evening might have been as a result of an “ongoing neighbor dispute over parking," the family of the deceased sisters are insisting it is nothing short of a hate crime which is unconnected with the faith of their kids and son-in-law: all three of the victims, Deah Barakat, 23, Yusor Abu-Salha, 21, and Razan Abu-Salha, 19, were Muslim.
“This incident had nothing to do with religion or the victims' faith, but in fact was related to the longstanding parking disputes that my husband had with the neighbors," Karen Hicks, Craig’s wife, said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon, expressing her shock over the killings, and offering condolences to the victims' families.
Mohammad Abu-Salha, the father of the female victims, however argued otherwise. In a statement to CNN, he said "we have no doubt that the way they looked and the way they believed had something to do with this."
He recollected how everything was going on fine when only his son-in-law was living in the apartment, until his “scarf-tying” daughter (indicating her Muslim faith) moved in.
"My daughter, Yusor, honest to God, told us on more than two occasions that this man came knocking at the door and fighting about everything with a gun on his belt, more than twice. She told us, 'Daddy, I think he hates us for who we are and how we look,'" Abu-Salha said.
"Now that we know from the police that they were shot in the head, very quickly, the three of them, one bullet each, in a very small space inside in the apartment. That's execution-style. I don't know, if that is not hate, what that would be?" the embattled father concluded.
Hicks, who the Police have said has no criminal record, was a self-described "anti-theist," and condemned all religions on Facebook.
A quick visit to Hicks facebook page gives off his inclination as an atheist.
He reportedly "liked" a TV Program called The Atheist Experience, as well as books like Thomas Paine's The Age of Reason and Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion.
Hick’s other photos included numerous images with text mocking religion, according to The Independent.
He has seen turned himself in to the police, who charged him with three counts of first-degree murder.