Stephanie Dizio and Mary Fam. By
Authorities have charged a 51-year-old man in the murders of two Muslim men in New Mexico’s largest city, and he is suspected of killing two others.
Authorities announced the man’s arrest on Tuesday after he was taken into custody a day earlier.
The killings sparked panic among Muslim communities across the country.
Among the victims are Naeem Hussain, Muhammad Afzal Hussain, Aftab Hussain and Mohammad Ahmadi. The killings began with Ahmadi’s death in November. The killings caught the attention of President Joe Biden.
This is a breaking news update. Below is an earlier story from AP.
Police announced Tuesday that they have detained a “primary suspect” in the murders of four Muslim men in Albuquerque, New Mexico, whose deaths sparked fear in Muslim communities across the country.
Police Chief Harold Medina announced on Twitter that officers had tracked down a vehicle involved in a murder in New Mexico’s largest city.
“The driver has been taken into custody and is our primary suspect in the murders,” the tweet said.
No other information was immediately available. Police plan to provide an update later on Tuesday.
The killings caught the attention of President Joe Biden, who said such attacks “have no place in America.” He also sent shivering to Muslim communities, where some questioned his safety and limited his activities.
When told of the announcement, Muhammad Imtiaz Hussain, brother of one of the victims, Muhammad Afzal Hussain, said he was relieved but needed to know more about the suspect and the motive.
“This gives us hope that the truth will come out,” he said. “We need to know why.”
Naeem Hussain was killed on Friday night, and three others were killed in the ambush.
Hussain, 25, was a resident of Pakistan. He died a few days after Muhammad Afzal Hussain, 27, and Aftab Hussain, 41, who were also from Pakistan and members of the same mosque.
The first is the murder of 62-year-old Mohammad Ahmadi from Afghanistan in November.
Authorities sought help on Monday in locating a vehicle that was found on Tuesday.
Officials said common elements in the deaths were the race and religion of the victims, and police were trying to determine if the deaths were linked.
Debbie Almontesar, the leader of the Muslim community in New York, said a female friend who lives in Michigan and wore the hijab she shared with her over the weekend was upset. “He’s like, ‘This is awful. I’m so scared. I travel alone,'” Almontesar said.
Aneela Abad, general secretary of the Islamic Center of New Mexico, described a community battered by the killings, its grief heightened by confusion and fear of what might happen next.
“We are just completely puzzled and still trying to understand and understand what happened, how and why,” she said.
Some people have avoided going out unless it is “absolutely necessary” and some Muslim university students are wondering if it is safe for them to live in the city, she said. The Center has also increased its security.
Police initially said the same vehicle was suspected to be used in all four murders – a dark gray or silver four-door Volkswagen with what appeared to be a Jetta or Passat with darkened windows. But the police chief’s tweet only mentioned the vehicle’s connection with a murder.
Officers released the photos hoping they could help people identify the car and offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest.
Investigators did not say where the photos were taken or what led them to suspect the car was involved in the murders. Police spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said in an email Monday that the agency had received suggestions about the car but did not provide details.
Gallegos said he could not comment on what type of gun was used in the shooting, or whether police know how many suspects were involved in the violence.
Albuquerque has recorded some anti-Muslim hate crimes in the past five years, according to FBI data cited by Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism and professor of criminal justice at California State University in San Bernardino. ,
From 2017 to 2020, there was one anti-Muslim hate crime in one year. The most recent numbers were in 2016, when Albuquerque police registered six of a total of 25 hate crimes.
Levine said it largely tracks with national trends, which hit the lowest numbers in a decade in 2020, with only a dozen cities and states growing 45% in 2021.
Albuquerque officials say they cannot determine whether the killings were a hate crime until they have identified a suspect and a motive.
Louis Schlesinger, a professor of forensic psychology at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, said bias murders are often committed by a small group of people, usually young white people. A lone offender is rare.
“These are basically total losers from every dimension, whether it’s social, economic, psychological, what have you,” he said. “They are full of hatred for one reason or the other and target a particular group, whom they see in their mind, to blame for all their problems in life.”
It was not clear whether the victims knew their attacker or the attackers.
The most recent victim was found dead after police received a call to shoot. Officials declined to say whether the murder was committed at the same time as the other deaths.
Muhammad Afzal Hussain acted as a regional organizer for a local Congress women’s campaign.
Democratic Rep. Melanie Stansbury released a statement praising him as “one of the kindest and most hardworking people around”. She said the urban planner is “committed to making our public spaces work for every person and cleaning up heritage pollution.”
As land-use director for the city of Espaola — more than 85 miles (137 kilometers) north of Albuquerque — Hussein worked to improve conditions and inclusivity for disadvantaged minorities, the mayor’s office said.
Dazio reported from Los Angeles and Fam from Winter Park, Florida. Associated Press writer Lindsey Whitehurst in Washington and AP News researchers Rhonda Schaffner and Jennifer Farrar in New York contributed to this report.