The New York Police Department has arrested and charged a 35-year-old Brooklyn man for killing an imam and his associate near a mosque on Saturday. The authorities have charged Oscar Morel with two counts of second-degree murder and two counts of criminal possession of a weapon.
Morel allegedly shot Imam Maulana Alauddin Akonjee, 55, and Thara Uddin, 54, at a close range when they were leaving Al-Fuquan Jame mosque in the Ozone Park neighborhood of Queens.
“All of a sudden I heard five shots,” said a witness, “I knew it wasn’t firecrackers. And then the commotion of the emergency (vehicles), and that’s when I knew…When I came here, they were doing CPR to both of the people on the ground.”
Although the police have not disclosed any possible motive behind the murders yet, sources claim the suspect was settling a score in a feud between the area Muslims and Hispanics.
Looks like the guy who killed the Imam in NYC is a white racist killer after all. Yup. A typical Trump supporter. pic.twitter.com/e0EbvT6DY3— Barney Franken (@BarneyFranken) August 16, 2016
The news of the charges came just hours after hundreds gathered in Queens for the victims’ funeral. Mourners included New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who said Muslims are “in crosshairs of bigotry” and promised the city would bolster the police presence in the neighborhood.
“We want justice,” Badrul Kahn, founder of the Al-Furqan mosque, told the crowd.
“We want justice,” responded the mourners.
"NYPD is well on its way to bringing this case to fruition," de Blasio says of murder of Ozone Park imam pic.twitter.com/9v9wmPx748— Noah Hurowitz (@NoahHurowitz) August 15, 2016
The surveillance video of the horrific murders showed a suspect, now believed to be Morel, shooting the two men in head.
After pulling the trigger, according to the authorities, the killer hit a bicyclist with his car, who fortunately noted the license plate number and alerted the police. He then rammed into an unmarked cop car, which is when the officers arrested him.
The New York Daily News reports that the incident might have stemmed from an ongoing feud between Muslims and Hispanics in the neighborhood, adding that the “shooting may have been payback after a group of Muslims allegedly attacked some Hispanics a few weeks earlier.”
Crimes against Muslims and attacks on mosques in the U.S. have hit a record high since the suspected terrorist attacks in San Bernardino and Orlando. While the police are still investigating if the shooting was a hate crime, the devastating incident has left the Muslim community on edge.