The suspect in the deaths of three Muslim college students in North Carolina had at least a dozen firearms in his home, according to search warrants released Friday as world leaders condemned the shootings.
Warrants filed in Durham County Superior Court listed an inventory of the weapons seized by police from the Chapel Hill condominium of Craig Stephen Hicks, the 46-year-old charged with three counts of first-degree murder.
The warrants list four handguns recovered from the home Hicks shared with his wife, in addition to a pistol the suspect had with him when he turned himself in to sheriff’s deputies about an hour after the shootings. The warrants also list two shotguns and six rifles, including a military-style AR-15 carbine. Police also recovered numerous loaded magazines and cases of ammunition.
Eight spent shell-casings were found in the neighboring apartment of Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, and his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21. Also killed was the wife’s sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19.
Relatives say all were shot in the head. Authorities haven’t disclosed exactly how the victims died.
“No one in the United States of America should ever be targeted because of who they are, what they look like, or how they worship,” President Barack Obama said in Washington.
In New York, spokesman Stephane Dujarric said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was “deeply moved” by scenes of thousands at Thursday’s funeral.
Police in Chapel Hill said they have yet to uncover any evidence Hicks acted out of religious animus, though they are investigating the possibility. As a potential motive, they cited a long-standing dispute about parking spaces at the condo community where he lived in the same building as the victims.
The FBI is now conducting a “parallel preliminary inquiry” to determine whether any federal laws, including hate crime laws, were violated.
Family members of the slain students are pressing for hate crime charges against the alleged shooter, but legal experts say such cases are relative rare and can be difficult to prove.
“This has hate crime written all over it,” said Dr. Mohammad Yousif Abu-Salha, speaking Thursday at the funeral for his daughters and son-in-law. “It was not about a parking spot.”
To win a hate-crime conviction, however, legal experts say prosecutors would have to prove Hicks deliberately targeted those killed because of religion, race or national origin.
North Carolina does not have a specific “hate crime” statute, though it has laws covering such acts of “ethnic intimidation” as hanging a noose, burning a cross or setting fire to a church.
SOURCE: The Associated Press