Who Is Craig Stephen Hicks, The Alleged Chapel Hill Shooter?
Craig Stephen Hicks, the man charged with the murder of three Muslims near the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, is currently being held without bond as the public questions his motives.
Craig Hicks Charged With Three Chapel Hill Murders
Hicks, 46, has been charged with three counts of murder after allegedly shooting Deah Barakat, 23, Yusor Abu-Salha, 21, and Razan Abu-Salha, 19, in the head on Tuesday. Hicks reportedly fired the shots after becoming enraged that one of the victims had parked in his spot. Hicks then went to their condo and shot all three occupants – newlyweds and the woman’s sister. They were pronounced dead at the scene.
Local police confirm that the neighbors were engaged in “an ongoing neighbor dispute over parking,” and that was the initial suspected motivation for the crimes. However, family of the victims and the Muslim community at large suspect the shootings were a hate crime.
Was This A Hate Crime?
“We have no doubt that the way they looked and the way they believed had something to do with this,” said the women’s father Mohammad Abu-Salha.
According to Abu-Salha, his son-in-law never had any problems with neighbors until he married and was joined by his wife and new sister-in-law, both of whom wore headscarves. The father claims that his daughter, Yusor, had once told him about a neighbor she felt was harassing them because of their religious beliefs.
“My daughter, Yusor, honest to God, told us on more than two occasions that this man came knocking at the door and fighting about everything with a gun on his belt, more than twice. She told us, ‘Daddy, I think he hates us for who we are and how we look,’” Abu-Salha recounted.
Imad Ahmad, a man who used to live in the apartment complex, recalled similar incidents, telling reporters that both he and Barakat would receive monthly visits from Hicks, who would reprimand their parking habits, wearing a gun on his hip. Ahmad claimed that he and other neighbors complained to the building managers. “They told us to call the police if the guy came and harassed us again,” Ahmad said.
Local towing company owner Christopher Lafreniere confirmed that Hicks appeared to have great frustration about the state of his building’s parking lot. Lafreniere told reporters that his company would receive calls of complaints from Hicks at least a few times a week. “This guy towed an obscene amount of cars. It got to the point where we stopped answering his calls, Lafreniere said.
Hicks Held Extreme Atheist Beliefs
Hicks’ strong atheist beliefs are also causing many to classify this as a hate crime. What appears to be Hicks’ personal Facebook page is full of evidence supporting his intensely anti-religious beliefs. In fact, his cover photo proclaims that atheism is, in fact, a form of “anti-theism”: “I don’t deny you your right to believe whatever you’d like; but I have the right to point out it’s ignorant and dangerous for as long as your baseless superstitions keep killing people,” the photo states.
Hicks, who was studying at Durham Technical Community College to become a paralegal, also recently shared a photo of his gun, complete with “five extra rounds in a speedloader.”
Police are currently investigating for evidence to back up the theory that this was a hate crime, and have confiscated Hicks’ computer, but have found none thus far. However, Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue has assured the public that they are taking the possibility of a hate crime very seriously. “Our investigators are exploring what could have motivated 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.
Hicks’ estranged wife, Karen Hicks, said that she does not believe that her husband killed his three neighbors due to their religious beliefs, but rather fears he is suffering from some kind of mental illness. “I can say, with my absolute belief, that this incident had nothing to do with religion or victims’ faith but, in fact, was related to the long standing parking disputes that my husband had with the neighbors,” Karen told the press.
Karen added that, while her husband may have been somewhat anti-religion, he respected the rights of others to worship, saying, “We were married for seven years, and I know that it didn’t matter what your religion was, it didn’t matter what your race was, didn’t matter sexuality. He believed that everybody should be treated equally and fair.”
Karen is in the process of divorcing her husband. Her attorney, Rob Maitland, who is not representing Hicks, added that he and Karen believe the crime “highlights the importance of access to mental health care services.”