“Our investigators are exploring what could have motivated [the shooter] 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,” Blue said.
Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, gunned down on Tuesday evening Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, his wife Yusor Mohammad, 21, and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, and were pronounced dead at the scene, the Chapel Hill Police Department said.
Hicks turned himself in after the shooting and went before a judge on Wednesday. He was charged with three counts of first-degree murder.
Police said a preliminary investigation indicated the shooting was motivated by a parking dispute.
Barakat and Yusor were recently married dental students at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Abu-Salha was a student at North Carolina University.
Deah (23), Yusor (21), & her sister Razan (19) shot & killed by 46 yr old white man Craig Stephen Hicks in NC pic.twitter.com/uMGuTBxR8h— Sandra Khalifa (@snkhalifa) 11 февраля 2015
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the United States’ largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, issued a statement saying Hick’s self-described “anti-theist” viewpoints against all religions justified an investigation into whether the murders were motivated by the victims’ Muslim faith.
"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," CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad said in a statement.
The shooting has created speculation on social media that it was a hate crime against Muslims, as well as criticism of mainstream media and the US government of a double-standard that they did not qualify a shooting against Muslims as terrorism.