Chapel Hill Shootings: Is It A Hate Crime?

The alleged killer in the Chapel Hill shootings has been indicted on murder charges. USA Today reports that Craig Hicks was indicted on murder charges Monday in the shooting deaths of three Muslim students in a parking dispute near the University of North Carolina. Hicks was charged with three counts of murder and one count of discharging a firearm into an occupied dwelling.

Hicks, a Chapel Hill resident, now stands accused of shooting Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23; his new wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21; and her 19-year-old sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, in what local police described a long-running parking dispute.

Even though local police stated that religious bias did not play a part in the shootings, the deaths of three Muslim students ignited protests as far away as Qatar, and calls for prosecution of the Chapel Hill shootings as a hate crime.

The people, led by the families of the deceased, cite Hicks’s Facebook page as evidence of his anti-Muslim sentiment and the justification for prosecution as a hate crime. Even though Craig Hicks is a self-described atheist, it seems that no one religion held a particular interest for him.

The following screenshot of a post from Hicks’s Facebook page as posted on the Blaze.

Craig Hicks Facebook Post

The Blaze also reports Hicks showed a complete disdain for all faiths when he wrote as follows.

“I wish they would exterminate each other!”

Despite holding such passionate views against religion in general, Hicks is also quoted as believing in an individual’s right to believe as they choose to believe.

“I hate Islam just as much as christianity, but they have the right to worship in this country just as much as any others do.”

The cover photo on Hicks’s personal Facebook page states that even though you have the right to believe as you choose; he has the right to point out how ignorant and dangerous your beliefs are, especially if people are killed.

As Hicks studied to be a paralegal at Durham Technical Community college, the Chapel Hill resident seemed to be focused on improving the world around him as he supported a variety of liberal and conservative causes such as the right to (or not to) worship, gay marriage, and gun rights, telling everyone to unfriend him “now” if they were anti-gun. (Investigators found a cache of weapons at Hicks’s Chapel Hill residence.)

Even so, the calls for the Chapel Hill shootings to be prosecuted as a hate crime continue, with the FBI and the Department of Justice investigating to determine if there is enough evidence to do so. One thing to remember as reported by the Raleigh News Observer: religious bias must be the predominant motivating factor.

However, the media coverage of the shootings has touched off debates about the possibility of anti-Muslim sentiment increasing in America, similar to the anti-Jewish sentiment that is sweeping across Europe. In an opinion piece posted on the Daily Princeton, the author feels there needs to be a discussion about the lack of coverage of these shootings, which he thinks can be solely attributed to the victims’ religion.

The one thing that can be certain is that the untimely deaths of three college students are a tragedy. Whether or not the Chapel Hill shootings are also a hate crime should be left up to law enforcement.

[Photo by: Sarah D. Davis/Getty Images]