The FBI is conducting a parallel investigation of the killing of three Muslim students in North Carolina.
Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, was charged with three counts of first-degree murder after allegedly shooting and killing Deah Shaddy Barakat, his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha Tuesday night in their condominium.
The self-described “gun toting” atheist with a reputation for bullying his neighbors may have killed the young students over a parking dispute, police say. However, they are also investigating whether religious or ethnic hatred motivated Hicks in any way.
Federal investigators have not ruled out a hate crime. The FBI announced Thursday it has "opened a parallel preliminary inquiry to determine whether any federal laws were violated."
Hicks had a history of getting into confrontations with neighbors over parking space at the condominium complex in Chapel Hill, N.C.
One neighbor, Samantha Maness, told the Raleigh News-Observer that a community meeting was held at the site’s clubhouse to discuss Hicks’ actions because it made them feel “unsafe and uncomfortable.”
The murdered women’s father, Dr. Mohammad Abu-Salha, a psychiatrist, told the Raleigh News-Observer Hicks had signaled a motive of hate in prior confrontations with his daughter, who attended North Carolina State University, as did her sister.
“This was not a dispute over a parking space; this was a hate crime,” he said. “This man had picked on my daughter and her husband a couple of times before, and he talked with them with his gun in his belt.