3 Muslim college students are killed in Chapel Hill, suspect in custody

World Today

In this Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015 photo, Chapel Hill police officers investigate the scene of three murders near Summerwalk Circle in Chapel Hill, N.C. A man, his wife and her sister, all college students, were shot to death by Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, who was was charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the shooting. (AP Photo/The News & Observer, Al Drago)

Police said Wednesday that a long-running parking dispute between neighbors sparked the shooting deaths of three family members at a quiet condominium complex near the University of North Carolina campus.

But a Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization raised concerns about the motive and asked authorities to address speculation — much of it on social media using the hastag #MuslimLivesMatter — about possible anti-Muslim bias.

The victims were identified as Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, Yusor Mohammad, 21, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19. Barakat and Mohammad were married, and Abu-Salha was Mohammad’s sister, according to UNC.

“Based on the brutal nature of this crime … 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,” said Nihad Awad, of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, was charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the Tuesday shooting, Chapel Hill police said. He appeared briefly in court Wednesday morning.

“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,” Chief Chris Blue said in the statement from Chapel Hill police.

Report complied with information from The Associated Press