Police probing if hate played role in murder of 3 Muslim women

World Today

A woman places flowers at a makeshift memorial next to murder victim Deah Shaddy Barakat’s car at the Finley Forest condominium complex Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2015 in Chapel Hill, NC . Photo: AP

Police on Thursday were trying to determine whether religious hatred played any role in the killing of three Muslims in North Carolina, a crime they said was sparked by a neighbor’s long-simmering anger over parking and noise inside their condominium complex.

Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, describes himself as a “gun toting” atheist. Neighbors say he always seemed angry and frequently confronted his neighbors, sometimes while wearing a handgun on his hip. His ex-wife said he was obsessed with the shooting-rampage movie “Falling Down,” and showed “no compassion at all” for other people.

The killings are fueling outrage among people who blame anti-Muslim rhetoric for hate crimes. A Muslim advocacy organization pressed authorities to investigate possible religious bias. Many posted social media updates with the hashtags #MuslimLivesMatter and #CallItTerrorism. About 2,000 people attended a candlelight vigil for the victims in the heart of UNC’s campus Wednesday evening.

His current wife, Karen Hicks, said he “champions the rights of others” and said the killings “had nothing do with religion or the victims’ faith.” Later Wednesday, she issued another statement, saying she’s divorcing him.

This story is compiled with information from The Associated Press.