Late last year, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha and her husband, Deah Shaddy Barakat, got a knock at the door.
It was their neighbor, Craig Stephen Hicks. And he was holding a rifle, Abu-Salha later told her friend.
They had been playing the board game Risk, the friend, Amira Ata, told Fusion’s Latoya Peterson on Wednesday. Hicks allegedly complained they were being too loud, and that they had woken up his wife.
Hicks is now suspected of shooting and killing Abu-Salha, 21, her husband, 23, and her sister, 19-year-old Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha. The women’s father has called the shootings a hate crime; his daughters, Muslims, wore head scarves. Police spokesman Lt. Joshua Mecimore said the department’s preliminary investigation suggested the shootings were motivated by “an ongoing neighbor dispute over parking.” Police haven’t ruled out a bias motive.
“We thought that was so weird—our neighbors don’t come to the door with guns! So when I heard the news it was shocking, but it wasn’t a surprise that it was the neighbor,” said Ata, a teacher who had been friends with Yusor since third grade.
Ata said that “deep down,” everyone in the community knows this was a hate crime.
“If you have a problem with your neighbors, you write a letter; you don’t shoot people,” she said. “I think they were targeted because they were different. He was always so annoyed with them for little thing. They are talking about a parking dispute online—that’s definitely not true.”
The mayor of Chapel Hill said Wednesday that the college town had been “rocked” by the shooting, which officials have said occurred around 5 p.m. Tuesday.
The 46-year-old Hicks, who turned himself into police, has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder. He allegedly posted a photo of his loaded gun on Facebook last month, and has posts on the site proclaiming himself a “militant atheist.”
Barakat, a Syrian-American who was a second-year dental student at the University of North Carolina, had been planning a trip to Turkey this summer to provide dental care for refugees of Syria’s civil war. Ata said Abul-Salha had gone there last year.
“She’s so young. Would you not let her blossom a bit more?” Ata said.
Ata’s full account was published on Fusion. Read it here.
Brett LoGiurato is the senior national political correspondent at Fusion, where he covers all things 2016. He'll give you everything you need to know about politics, with a healthy side of puns.