A North Carolina grand jury has indicted suspect Craig Hicks on three counts of murder in the shootings of three young Muslim students in Chapel Hill.
Police say that Craig Hicks, 46, carried out the shootings as a result of a parking dispute.
However, they have not ruled out the possibility that the killings may have been motivated by religious hatred.
At least 12 firearms were taken from Craig Hicks’s home after he handed himself in to be arrested, police say.
Craig Hicks is reported to have described himself online as a “gun-toting” atheist.
Family members reported that Craig Hicks had previously “picked on” the married couple.
However, his wife Karen said the incident, which has drawn international condemnation, had nothing to do with religion and her husband treated everyone equally.
Deah Shaddy Barakat, his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha were found dead a week ago in their Chapel Hill flat near the University of North Carolina, where Barakat was a dental student.
Craig Hicks, a neighbor, is scheduled to appear in court accused of murder on March 4. He remains in jail without bail.
More than 5,000 people attended a funeral on February 12 for the three students.
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President Barack Obama has denounced the murders of three Muslim students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina as “brutal and outrageous”.
In a statement, Barack Obama said no one in the US should be targeted for “what they look like” or “how they worship”.
Barack Obama’s comments came after criticism from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over the president’s silence.
With suspect Craig Hicks in custody, police are still investigating the motive, amid family claims it was a hate crime.
The FBI has opened an inquiry into the case.
Deah Shaddy Barakat, his wife Yusor Mohammad and her sister Razan were found dead on February 10 in their home near the University of North Carolina, where Barakat was a dental student.
Craig Hicks, a neighbor of the students, has been charged with the murders.
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Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has criticized President Barack Obama for his silence over the murder of three Muslim students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan said politicians were responsible for events in their countries and had to clarify their stance over them.
More than 5,000 people attended the funeral of the students who were shot dead in Chapel Hill on February 10.
With a suspect in custody, police are still investigating the motive, amid family claims it was a hate crime.
Initial indications are that the gunman, Craig Hicks, acted in a dispute with the victims over a parking space, according to the police.
A district prosecutor said on February 11 there was no evidence that the victims – Deah Shaddy Barakat, wife Yusor Mohammad and her sister Razan – had been targeted because of their faith.
However, at next day’s funeral, the local police chief said his force would investigate every lead, including the possibility of a hate crime.
The murders have resonated both within US and around the world, especially on social media. The hashtag ChapelHillShooting has been used hundreds of thousands of times.
Speaking on a visit to Mexico, Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticized Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and Vice-President Joe Biden for not having made any statement about the murder of the “three Muslims”.
“If you stay silent when faced with an incident like this, and don’t make a statement, the world will stay silent towards you,” he said.
“As politicians, we are responsible for everything that happens in our countries and we have to show our positions.”
Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a devout Sunni Muslim who has been increasingly critical of the treatment of Muslims living in Western societies.
His relations with the Obama administration have also come under strain over the conflict in Syria and Iraq.
Turkey and the US are allies in the campaign against Islamic State militants, but differences over tactics have emerged over the last six months.
Thursday’s funeral was held at the athletic fields of North Carolina State University where all three victims had been students. Police estimate 5,500 people attended the event.
Craig Hicks gave himself up to police and has been charged with the murders. His Facebook profile included a photo that read “Atheists for Equality”. He also frequently posted quotes critical of religion.
However, his wife, Karen Hicks, said the incident had nothing to do with religion and her husband treated everyone equally. He also apparently had a history of conflicts with neighbors over parking spaces.
Deah Shaddy Barakat was a dental student at the university and his wife was planning to enroll in the school in the next term.
There has been criticism of a perceived lack of coverage in the mainstream media with the hashtag MuslimLivesMatter mentioned almost 100,000 times in the day following the shooting.
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Karen Hicks, the wife of the man accused of killing three Muslim students in North Carolina, said the attack was motivated by parking, not religion.
She said she was “shocked” by the attack but said her husband Craig Hicks, 46, had parking disputes with many neighbors, of all religions.
Deah Barakat, his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha were found dead, shot in the head at home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Their family has said the attack was motivated by hate.
Mohammed Abu-Salha, father of the two sisters who were killed, said Craig Hicks had killed them “execution style”.
“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,” he told the News-Observer newspaper.
“And they were uncomfortable with him, but they did not know he would go this far.”
On February 11, Karen Hicks stood alongside a lawyer as she told reporters her husband believed “everyone is equal, it doesn’t matter what you look like, who you are or what you believe”.
Her lawyer said the shooting had “nothing to do with the victims’ religious beliefs but had everything to do with a mundane parking spot dispute”.
The lack of access to mental health care was the real issue, he said, not terror.
Chapel Hill Police said in a statement there had been an ongoing parking dispute but they are still investigating whether the attack was hate-motivated.
Craig Hicks’ Facebook profile included a photo that read “Atheists for Equality”. He frequently posted quotes critical of religion.
He had also posted a photo on January 20 of a gun he said was loaded and belonged to him.
The preliminary investigation indicates the crime was motivated by an “ongoing neighbor dispute over parking,” Chapel Hill police said in a statement.
There are still questions over what could have motivated Craig Hicks to commit such a senseless and tragic act, Chief Chris Blue said.
“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.”
Police were called to the scene after reports on February 10 of gunshots being fired in the area.
The bodies were found in an apartment block in the town of Chapel Hill near the University of Carolina.
Deah Barakat raised money for dental care for Syrian refugees through the Miswak Foundation and had volunteered locally, according to the Washington Post.
The suspect, who is reported to have turned himself in, is being held at Durham County Jail while the investigation continues.
Craig Hicks appeared in court on February 11 and remains in custody.
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