President Obama today described as "brutal and outrageous" the murders of three young Muslims who were gunned down in North Carolina earlier this week, saying no one in the U.S. should be targeted for their religion.
The remarks came a day after the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division opened a parallel investigation of the killings of Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, Deah Shaddy Barakat and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha at their apartment in Chapel Hill, in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney's office of North Carolina and the FBI.
"As we saw with the overwhelming presence at the funeral of these young Americans, we are all one American family," the president said in a statement. "Whenever anyone is taken from us before their time, we remember how they lived their lives — and the words of one of the victims should inspire the way we live ours."
"Growing up in America has been such a blessing," Yusor said recently, according to the president. "It doesn't matter where you come from. There's so many different people from so many different places, of different backgrounds and religions — but here, we're all one."
A neighbor of the three, 46-year-old Craig Hicks, turned himself in to police and confessed to the triple homicide, according to authorities. He had made social media postings saying he was an atheist. His estranged wife has insisted that the shooting was caused by a dispute over a parking spot and had nothing to do with religion.
Even so, the victims' families have insisted that authorities investigate whether the crime was motivated by a hatred of Muslims. The DOJ's investigation would look into that possibility.
Also today, The Associated Press reports that a police search of Hicks' home found "an arsenal of a dozen firearms ... and a large stash of ammunition."
The AP says police found four handguns "in addition to a pistol the suspect had with him when arrested. The warrants also list two shotguns and seven rifles, including a military-style AR-15 carbine. Police also recovered numerous loaded magazines and cases of ammunition."