CRIME

Craig Hicks Was Threat With 'Equal Opportunity Anger,' Neighbors Say

02/13/2015 02:03 pm ET | Updated Feb 13, 2015
Raleigh News & Observer via Getty Images

The suspected killer of three Muslim family members in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, was a known bully in his community, neighbors say.

Craig Hicks, 46, was always irritated about noise and parking in the condominium complex where he allegedly shot and killed Deah Shaddy Barakat, Barakat's wife, Yusor Abu-Salha, and her sister, Razan Abu-Salha on Tuesday. Neighbors say they felt uncomfortable around him, especially when he regularly approached with a gun holstered to his belt, according to the New York Times.

"I have seen and heard him be very unfriendly to a lot of people in this community," Samantha Maness, another resident of the Finley Forest development, told the Times. She said that Hicks displayed an "equal opportunity anger" and that he made "everyone feel uncomfortable and unsafe."

He was emphatic about enforcing the complex's parking regulations and griped when he thought Maness made too much noise with friends.

Imad Ahmad, Barakat's former roommate, said the victims had faced Hicks' anger before.

"He would come over to the door, knock on the door and then have a gun on his hip saying, 'You guys need to not park here,'" Ahmad told the Associated Press. "He did it again after [Yusor and Deah] got married."

Neighbors' accounts of Hicks' behavior before the shooting come at a time of increased tension over the murder investigation. Chapel Hill police have said that they haven't ruled out the idea that the shooting was "hate-motivated," but so far they've suggested an ongoing parking dispute fueled Hicks' wrath.

Some Muslims in Chapel Hill as well as the victims' family and friends aren't buying the motive. Dr. Mohammad Abu-Salha, the slain sisters' father, called for a federal probe into what he says "has hate crime written all over it."

The FBI is launching a "preliminary inquiry," but haven't yet committed to a full investigation, according to NBC News. The Chapel Hill police are also investigating.

In a press conference on Wednesday, Hicks' wife Karen said that her husband was an angry man, but not prejudiced.

"This incident had nothing to do with religion or victims’ faith, but instead had to do with the longstanding parking disputes that my husband had with the neighbors," she said. "He often champions on his Facebook page for the rights of many individuals. Same sex marriages, abortion, race, he just believes that everyone is equal. Doesn’t matter what you look like or who you are or what you believe."

She has said she's filing for divorce from Hicks.

Hicks is charged with three counts of first-degree murder.

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