On June 12, a North Carolina man was sentenced to three consecutive life terms in prison for the 2015 murders of three young Muslims ― a crime that was initially framed as a parking dispute in spite of the perpetrator’s anti-Muslim and anti-religion social media posts.
Craig Hicks, 50, pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree murder for shooting and killing Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, his wife Yusor Mohamed, 21, and her sister Razan Abu-Salha, 19. Hicks also pleaded guilty to discharging a firearm into an occupied dwelling.
In the aftermath of the 2015 murders, Chapel Hill police said the shooting occurred over a parking dispute within the condo complex where Hicks, Deah and Yusor resided. Yusor’s sister Razan was visiting the newlywed couple for dinner the evening of the murders. News reports noted that Hicks was “undeniably obsessed with parking.”
But the families of the victims, as well as the wider Muslim community, argued that the killings were a clear-cut case of anti-Muslim bigotry. Prosecutors later noted that Hicks only brandished his gun at the people he would eventually kill, and never at their white neighbors. Yusor told her husband as much in text messages later obtained by prosecutors.
Authorities did not ultimately charge Hicks with a hate crime, even though the district attorney acknowledged his actions were motivated by anti-Muslim hate. Chapel Hill police also said on Wednesday that the murders “were about more than simply a parking dispute,” an announcement that was welcomed by the family. Hate crime statutes in North Carolina are only applicable to misdemeanors and do not apply to felonies, such as murder. The families of the victims are trying to change that law.