The nation is reeling after three young Muslim students were found shot to death in an apartment in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, late Tuesday afternoon.
Police initially said 46-year-old Craig Stephen Hicks shot three college students who lived in an apartment near the University of North Carolina campus over “an ongoing neighbor dispute over parking.”
However, Facebook posts made by Hicks prior to the attack seem to espouse staunch atheistic rhetoric, leading to questions as to whether religion was a possible motive.
“Based on the brutal nature of this crime, the past anti-religion statements of the alleged perpetrator, the religious attire of two of the victims, and the rising anti-Muslim rhetoric in American society, we urge state and federal law enforcement authorities to quickly address speculation of a possible bias motive in this case,” Council on American–Islamic Relations National Executive Director Nihad Awad said.
Chapel Hill police say they still have not ruled out a possible religious motive.
“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,” said Police Chief Chris Blue.
Victims Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, Yusor Mohammad, 21, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, were all found shot in the head, according to CNN. Barakat, a dental student, was wed to Mohammad last December.
— LZ Granderson (@Locs_n_Laughs) February 11, 2015
Hicks reportedly turned himself into the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office “without incident” last night.
People on the scene yesterday grew frustrated that police had not released more information on the victims, with one father crying, “It’s been hours! Just tell me if he’s alive!” according to the Daily Tar Heel.
Meanwhile, outrage is growing over the fact that the shooting is not being prominently reported by the national media.
Mainstream media is not reporting it. Let's ask about this. Let's talk about it. Don't let them sweep it under the rug. #MuslimLivesMatter
— Ijeoma Oluo (@IjeomaOluo) February 11, 2015
— Damiyr Andre (@KingDamiyr) February 11, 2015
— amin el gamal (@aminelgamal) February 11, 2015
— Diana (@lunarnomad) February 11, 2015
Comedian and actor Chris Rock tweeted out the current headlines of every major news network, all of which failed to cover the shooting.
— Chris Rock (@ozchrisrock) February 11, 2015
Others, using the Twitter hashtag #MuslimLivesMatter, are questioning whether the story would have gained more traction had the roles been reversed.
If this had been a Muslim shooter killing 3 atheists the headlines screaming TERROR ATTACK would be on every front page. #ChapelHillShooting
— le estate secret (@onekade) February 11, 2015
Muslims only newsworthy when "behind a gun. Not in front it." Lack of coverage on Chapel HIll murders confirms this pic.twitter.com/vNQ3KWD6zF
— Khaled Bey (@KhaledBeydoun) February 11, 2015
The US media is referring to the #ChapelHillShooting just as a hate crime, but if the killer had been Muslim it would be a terrorist attack.
— Haraam Police ® (@saadabdulhai) February 11, 2015
— Abdul Haq (@Abdulhaq_22) February 11, 2015
— Joe Catron (@jncatron) February 11, 2015
Hicks is being charged with three counts of first degree murder.