New York - A prime suspect has been taken into custody by the New York City Police Department in the shooting of a Muslim Imam and his assistant late Sunday night.
New York – A prime suspect has been taken into custody by the New York City Police Department in the shooting of a Muslim Imam and his assistant late Sunday night.
Imam Maulama Akonjee, 55 and his assistant Thara Uddin, 64, were both shot execution-style in the back of the head after leaving the mosque in Cypress Hills, a neighborhood in Queens. Both were immigrants from Bangladesh.
The murders occurred at 1:50PM in broad daylight, said police. The Imam had just led the afternoon “zuhr” prayer.
“We strongly believe this is the individual,” said Robert Boyce, NYPD Chief of Detectives during a press conference.
Boyce said the suspect in custody is a 36-year-old Hispanic male who resides in East New York, Brooklyn. The suspect has not been officially charged or identified.
Police used neighborhood surveillance cameras to track the suspect as he entered a black SUV and sped off from the crime scene. A video of the actual murder was released today.
Police said the suspected killer was apprehended in Brooklyn after abandoning his vehicle during a hit-and-run car accident. An eyewitness to the murders identified the suspect, police said.
The Muslim community criticized New York City’s Mayor Bill DiBlasio for not showing up sooner to address the grieving community. After two days, DiBlasio finally attended the funeral yesterday and spoke with the Imam’s sons. He vowed that the police would catch the double murderer and promised extra police presence at local mosques to protect the Muslim communities throughout the city.
More than a thousand Muslims lined up to pray at the funeral of the two murder victims yesterday reported CBS2-TV news. Afterwards, the crowd of mourners protested and chanted “we want justice” while holding signs that said, “STOP HATE CRIMES.”
New York City officials are not calling the murders a “hate crime” which, if the suspect is convicted, carries a greater penalty during sentencing. Police also said a motive for the killings has not been determined.
“In light of the recent political climate with the amplified anti-Muslim rhetoric and Islamophobia, that we have been seeing in all parts of society, it is even more imperative that we make sure there wasn’t a religious or bias motive that contributed to this attack,” said spokesperson Zainab Chaudry of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
She said that there were 180 anti-Muslim attacks that were reported in 2015 which has led to a climate of anger and fear.
“There is a real sense of feeling victimized and feeling targeted amongst Muslims across the entire nation, said Chaudry during a Canadian TV news interview.
Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump announced yesterday that he would implement an ideological test before issuing visas to Muslim immigrants and tourists. Muslim visa applicants would be asked their stances on religious freedom, gender equality and gay rights.