U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday described the deaths of three young Muslims killed in North Carolina this week as “brutal and outrageous murders” and said no one in the United States should be targeted for their religion.
The president’s statement came as the U.S. Justice Department said it would join the FBI’s preliminary inquiry to determine whether the man accused in the Chapel Hill shooting on Tuesday broke any federal laws, including hate crime laws.
“No one in the United States of America should ever be targeted because of who they are, what they look like, or how they worship,” Obama said in a statement, offering his condolences to the victims’ families.
The families had called on Obama to insist that federal authorities investigate whether the murder suspect, 46-year-old paralegal student Craig Stephen Hicks, was motivated by hatred toward the victims because they were Muslim.
Police seized more than a dozen firearms and a large amount of ammunition from his home, according to search warrants filed on Friday.
Newlywed Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, a University of North Carolina dental student, his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, a student at North Carolina State University, were killed in a condominium about two miles from the UNC campus.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday praised the three victims, who were all involved in humanitarian aid work, as representing the best values of global citizenship and said he was deeply moved by scenes of thousands of people mourning their deaths.