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Crowds hold vigil in honor of Chapel Hill victims

Friends and family of the victims paid tribute to three Muslim students killed in a possible hate crime

Published: Updated:

Thousands gathered at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Wednesday to attend a vigil honoring the three Muslim students who were killed in a possible hate crime.

The event was organized to mourn the three slain Arab students - Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, his wife Yusor Mohammad, 21, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19 - who were shot Tuesday night.

The Muslim Students Association at the university arranged for buses to shuttle students to Wednesday’s vigil, the Huffington post reported.

Friends and family of the victims paid tribute to the three students and shared stories about them, WNCN news website reported.

Barakat’s sister, who was also a student at the same university, said she was devastated by the loss.

“Having been here for nine years and having attended many vigils myself in support of so many causes that this amazing institution is proud of, I never once thought that I would one day be here for my brother,” she said.

The chancellor of the university was brought to tears while speaking before the vigil, the wesbite added.

Carol Folt described Wednesday as “one of the saddest and most incomprehensible days" of her life.

Other universities across the U.S. will also hold vigils in honor of the Chapel Hill shooting victims.

U.S. police have arrested the shooter - 46-year-old Craig Stephen Hicks - who turned himself in and is being held in the Durham County Jail.

Police said the motive of the shooting remains unclear so far, but did not rule out the possibility of it being a hate crime. A dispute over a parking slot may have led to the shooting, police said. Members of the American town’s Muslim community said they believe the shooting was a hate crime.

Many recalled that Hicks’ Facebook page included posts that showed disregard for all religions.

The father of the two women killed in the Chapel Hill shooting reportedly said his daughter had expressed concerns about the shooter earlier.

“This was execution style,” said Mohammad Abu-Salha, according to WNCN news website. “This was a hate crime from a neighbor our children spoke about.”

Abu-Salha said Hicks “came to the apartment more than once - condescending, threatening and despising, and talking down to them about different things.”

Among the issues the shooter complained about was parking, the father added.

However, Hicks' wife and her attorney said the shooting was motivated by an ongoing dispute over parking place and was not a hate crime.

Angry reactions

The shooting sparked anger among Muslim and non-Muslim mourners who took to social media to express their grief.

Many were upset with the poor media coverage that followed the Chapel Hill Shooting.

Also, some activists called on people around the world to donate to charity in the memory of the three murdered students. Slain Barakat had himself volunteered in setting up a fundraising page for Syrian children in the civil war.