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Police Say Killing Of 3 Muslims In N.C. Followed A Parking Dispute

Deah Barakat, his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21; and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, were killed Tuesday. The photo comes from a Facebook page created by friends of the trio.

Police in Chapel Hill, N.C., have arrested Craig Stephen Hicks and charged him with first-degree murder in the shooting of three young Muslims. The shooting occurred Tuesday afternoon; police say that the violence seems to have started after a dispute over parking.

Hicks appeared in court Wednesday morning and was denied bail, according to local media. You can follow developments at member station WUNC.

Update at 10:10 a.m. ET: A Parking Dispute, Police Say

The inquiry into the three shootings continues, but the Chapel Hill Police Department says that the "preliminary investigation indicates that the crime was motivated by an ongoing neighbor dispute over parking."

"Our investigators are exploring what could have motivated Mr. Hicks to commit such a senseless and tragic act," said Chief Chris Blue of the Chapel Hill Police Department.

"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. "Our thoughts are with the families and friends of these young people who lost their lives so needlessly."

Blue says that Hicks is cooperating with investigators and that the department could release more information "at a later time."

Our original post continues:

From North Carolina Public Radio, Rebecca Martinez reports:

"The victims are Deah Barakat, 23; his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21; and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19. Barakat and Abu-Salha were students.

"The murders happened in the quiet Finley Forest neighborhood a few miles east of the UNC Chapel Hill Campus.

"Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, turned himself over to authorities last night. Police haven't released any information about a motive for the murders."

The case quickly attracted international attention — and sparked suspicions on social media that the victims might have been attacked because of their religion.

On Twitter, #ChapelHillShooting became the top trending hashtag, with many using the tag to criticize American media outlets for what they viewed as a lack of coverage.

In Chapel Hill, student newspaper the Daily Tar Heel reports that Barakat was in his second year at the UNC School of Dentistry, where Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha was planning to start studying in the fall. The paper says Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha was a student at N.C. State University.

N.C. State says all three of the victims had attended the school as undergraduates, and that all had earned academic distinctions.

Today, Chancellor Randy Woodson issued a statement, saying, "On behalf of the entire NC State community, I'd like to extend our deepest condolences to the families and friends of Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad and Razan Abu-Salha."

According to The Raleigh News & Observer, Hicks lived in the same neighborhood as the victims. From the newspaper:

"Barakat, a Syrian-American, majored in business administration and management at NCSU before enrolling at UNC-Chapel Hill in 2013 to pursue his doctorate in dental surgery.

"Both he and Abu-Salha advocated for global dental health, providing care and supplies to people in the United States and the Middle East. On Jan. 29, Barakat posted a Facebook photo of a Durham project that gave dental supplies and food to more than 75 homeless people this year."

A look at Barakat's Twitter feed shows that he was a big basketball fan, particularly devoted to Stephen Curry, who starred at Davidson College in North Carolina before moving on to the NBA.

He also posted about dentistry — and occasionally, about a topic that has come to define our time, as when he said, "It's so freaking sad to hear people saying we should 'kill Jews' or 'kill Palestinians.' "

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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