Chapel Hill Tragedy


Matt Mitchell, Staff Writer

On Tuesday, Feb. 10 around 5:00 PM, the local Chapel Hill police received two phone calls from women describing multiple gunshots and women screaming. When they arrived on the scene three people were already dead. Deah Shaddy Barakat (23), his newlywed wife Yusor Mohammad (21), and her younger sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha (19) were all dead; shot in the head “hallmark of a summary execution,” according to police reports. After a very brief police investigation Craig Stephen Hicks, a neighbor of the deceased, was arrested and charged with three counts of murder.

Though initial police reports and testimony from Mr. Hicks’ wife attribute the altercation to a long-standing debate over parking and noise, the victims’ families see this killing as a hate crime. All three of the victims were active Muslims, and the two sisters, Yusor and Razan, wore hijabs as part of their faith. This has prosecutors investigating whether the crime really did stem from a simple issue over parking, or if it was motivated by something darker. Before Deah and Yusor’s marriage, Mr. Barakat, Deah’s father, said that there had been no conflict whatsoever between his son and Mr. Hicks. He speculates that it was his daughter-in-law’s appearance, her hijab, which sparked Mr. Hicks’ aggression. Mohammed Abu-Salha, the father of the two female victims, reported to police that Mr. Hicks had, on two separate occasions, confronted them at their apartment with a gun on his belt, “fighting about everything.” In the interest of discovering the truth, the FBI has become involved, investigating whether or not this murder qualifies as a hate crime, and indeed, it is hard to imagine that a simple parking dispute could escalate into something so heinous.

The legal distinction of “hate crime” is very important to prosecutors and defenders alike, as being found guilty of a hate crime would bring the force of law down much harder on Mr. Hicks. As of now there has been no word on whether or not the prosecution will be pursuing the death penalty for Mr. Hicks’ crime, but we can all be sure that the term “hate crime” will be integral to whatever punishment Mr. Hicks will eventually face.

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