More than 5,000 people flocked to Raleigh, North Carolina, on Thursday to attend the funeral of Deah Barakat, 23; his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21; and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, who were shot earlier this week. In an address to the crowd, which gathered on an athletic field near the mosque where the service was to be held, the father of the two women made another call to the authorities to investigate the murders as a hate crime. “This is our country. We’re here to stay. We want to make it safer for all the children of different religions and colors. The president needs to pay attention,” Dr. Mohammad Yousif Abu-Salha said. “They need to have an elaborate investigation. This is not a parking dispute. These children were executed.”
Dr. Abu-Salha has said the man charged with the murders, Craig Stephen Hicks, had picked on his neighbors several times and had shown up to their door with a gun on his belt. He said his daughter felt the neighbor hated them for “what we are and how we look.” Yusor’s friend Amira Ata described a similar incident to Fusion:
In October or November, we went to dinner at Yusor and Deah’s house. Right after we left, Yusor heard a knock at the door and it was Hicks. She told us he was angry and said we were noisy and there were two extra cars in the neighborhood. We used visitor parking but he was still mad. He said we woke up his wife. It wasn’t that dark yet. It wasn’t late. And it wasn’t that loud. We were playing a board game called Risk. I mean, I know I was mad because they were beating me at the game, but that was it. While he was at the door talking to Yusor, he was holding a rifle, she told me later. He didn’t point it at anyone, but he still had it. Yusor called to check on us after we left, to make sure he hadn’t approached us. We thought that was so weird—our neighbors don’t come to the door with guns!
But neighbors say that behavior wasn’t uncommon for Hicks. Many doubt that such a horrific crime could have been sparked by a parking dispute, but Christopher Lafreniere, a local tow-truck driver, told The Wall Street Journal that Hicks frequently reported neighbors for failing to park in their assigned spaces. He said his company, which had a contract for towing in the neighborhood, got calls from Hicks “every day, or at least several times a week” for more than a year. Lafreniere says that one time he received a rare parking complaint from a resident who wasn’t Hicks and got into an argument with the car’s owner. “Hicks comes out with a gun and says, ‘I’ve called the police,’” Mr. Lafreniere said. “I heard sirens from miles away.”
“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,’” Lafreniere said. “He was all about towing.”
Others who live in the condominium complex tell the New York Times that Hicks would often confront them to complain about noise or parking issues, and the situation got so bad that residents held a meeting to talk about him. Samantha Maness said she’d upset Hicks by getting noisy while playing a card game, as well as playing loud music as she drove into the lot. “I have seen and heard him be very unfriendly to a lot of people in this community,” said Maness. She added that he seemed to show “equal opportunity anger” and “he kind of made everyone feel uncomfortable and unsafe.”