The killings immediately set off a debate throughout the world over whether the students had been targeted because of their religion, with the phrases #muslimlivesmatter and #chapelhillshooting going viral on Twitter, led by Muslim organizations including the controversial CAIR.
On the U.N.C. campus on Wednesday evening, thousands packed the central plaza known as The Pit in a silent, dramatic show of solidarity. Dozens of friends and relatives offered remembrances.
UNC vigil on Wednesday night at “The Pit” for the 3 victims shot to death on Tuesday. (Image source: ABC11)
Hicks was a former car parts salesman who was studying to be a paralegal at Durham Technical Community College. He and the victims lived on opposite sides of the condominium complex tucked into the woods about a mile and a half from the main University of North Carolina campus. Residents said Hicks’s apartment was close to the main parking lot and the students lived on the other side, where little parking could be found.
Hicks appeared to have strong feelings against all religions and a love for guns. On his Facebook page, he posted many pictures of him with guns and nearly all of his posts expressed support for atheism, criticism of Christian conservatives or both.
Last month, he posted a photograph that said, “Praying is pointless, useless, narcissistic, arrogant, and lazy; just like the imaginary god you pray to.” A cover photo stated that he was an “anti-theist” and he wanted all religions to “go away.”
However, Hicks’ wife, Karen, insists that her husband was not a bigot. “I can say with absolute belief that this incident had nothing to do with religion or the victims’ faith, but it was related to a longstanding parking dispute that my husband had with the neighbors,” she said. She also pointed out his support for gay rights and the right to abortion.
Craig Hicks Facebook post (Image source: TPM)
Mohammad Yousif Abu-Salha, the father of the two women who were killed, said Yusor had told him that she and her husband had been harassed for their appearance by a neighbor who was wearing a gun on his belt. On his Facebook page, Hicks recently posted a photograph of what he said was his .38-caliber, five-shot revolver.
A friend of Yusor said she knew that Hicks had complained to the couple before about making noise and their visitors’ using parking spaces, and that he once came to their door carrying a rifle.
A tow truck driver described Hicks as manically fixated on his parking space. According to him, Hicks was making calls nearly every day to have cars towed.
“The news is saying, ‘hate crime, hate crime,’ but then I found out it was that guy and I thought, ‘Hmm, it actually might have been a parking issue,’” the tow truck driver said. “He was all about towing.”
One of his neighbors, Robert Maitland, said, “This man was frustrated day in and day out about not being able to park where he wanted.”
On Facebook, Hicks called the entire thing “my parking lot” and described calling the police on a couple in their car who were not, apparently, even in what he considered his space.
But on Twitter, Jibril Hough, who had defended Hamas, claimed that Hicks was the “atheist version of ISIS.” “Who shoots 3 people in the head over a parking spot?” he demanded.” A Rasict and Islamophobic man in Chapel Hill.” Hough is talking about this angry leftist man who was fully in favor of the Ground Zero Mosque, according to FrontPage Mag.
Yusor Mohammad, left, Deah Barakat, center, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, right. (Image source: Facebook/Buzzfeed)
Barakat was a second-year student at the university’s graduate school of dentistry, and his wife was set to enroll in the same school later this year. Her sister was an undergraduate at North Carolina State University who was studying architecture and environmental design.
Barakat worked with a charity that provided dental supplies to the poor, and he planned to travel to Turkey to provide dental care to refugees from the civil war in Syria, narrating a video to raise money.