Three young Muslim students were shot and killed in Chapel Hill, NC, at approximately 5:11 pm on Tuesday evening.
The incident occurred at a quiet condominium complex not far from the University of North Carolina.
Local police have identified the victims as 23-year-old Deah Shaddy Barakat, along with his wife, 21-year-old Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, and her 19-year-old sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, according to the Independent.
All three victims were shot in the head and pronounced dead at the scene after police responded to a report of gunfire.
A 46-year-old man, Craig Stephen Hicks, has been arrested and charged with three counts of first-degree murder in relation to the incident.
According to reports, all three victims were popular within their community, and the news has shocked and disturbed residents. Barakat was a dental student who also did work in impoverished communities.
His wife was planning on beginning dental school later this year. Her sister, Razan, was a freshman design major.
Police have not yet released a motive for the brutal killings. Preliminary reports say it was a consequence of an argument over parking. Concurrently, there is widespread speculation that the shooting was religiously motivated, and some argue it was a hate crime.
3 beautiful souls, in what name were killed? #ChapelHillShooting #Islamophobia pic.twitter.com/qnbawCbXl3 — Maher Zain (@MaherZain) February 11, 2015
The young Muslim couple just two months ago at their wedding. Executed by an athiest yesterday. #ChapelHillShootingpic.twitter.com/PTunewovlO — rabia chaudry (@rabiasquared) February 11, 2015
The suspect, Hicks, is an atheist and frequently posted anti-religious content on his Facebook page.
In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo killings, some also feel the media hasn't given this incident the attention it deserves.
Accordingly, the killings have incited a massive and emotive response on Twitter.
Act of terror? Extremism? Radicalisation? Call out for condemnation? Reported in the news? #ChapelHillShooting pic.twitter.com/0doGxJBJsY — Omar Salha (@o_salha) February 11, 2015
Alleged atheist executed this Muslim couple & her sister. Religion isn't the enemy. Evil is. #ChapelHillShooting pic.twitter.com/jXaTxzrMV9 — LZ Granderson (@Locs_n_Laughs) February 11, 2015
3 Muslim college students killed in cold blood. No media attention or outrage #MuslimLivesMatter #ChapelHillShooting pic.twitter.com/FuCN3XAkA3 — Diana (@lunarnomad) February 11, 2015
The investigation surrounding the killings is ongoing, and it appears this senseless and tragic incident will continue to foster an impassioned debate surrounding religion and media bias.
Citations: 3 Shot to Death Near University of N Carolina Were Relatives (ABC News), Chapel Hill shooting Three young Muslims gunned down in North Carolina family home (The Independent), Killing of 3 in Chapel Hill stirs alarm among Muslims (Washington Post)