Muhammad Syed, 51, of Albuquerque, is the prime suspect in the murder of four Muslim men in the city between November and August, police say.
Syed denied involvement in the killings in a police interview Tuesday, according to an affidavit of arrest.
One of the firearms recovered is linked to casings found at the scene of two of the murders, while casings for a handgun found in his car when he was arrested were linked to one of the scenes, according to the arrest affidavit.
Syed told police “he was driving to Texas to find a new place for his family to live because the situation in Albuquerque was bad,” referring to the killing of Muslim men, according to the affidavit.
On Wednesday, he appeared in court via video from a detention center.
Through a Pashtun interpreter, he asked to address the court during his hearing. His lawyer, Megan Mitsunaga, asked the court not to take statements from his client.
Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court Judge Renée Torres also advised Syed that keeping quiet would be the best thing for him. “Sounds good,” Syed replied.
Syed’s case will be transferred to a district court. He is being held without bail in the meantime.
In announcing Syed’s arrest on Tuesday, Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina said the department was working with the district attorney’s office on potential charges in the deaths of the other two men, Mohammad Zaher Ahmadi, 62 years old, killed on November 7 and 25 years old. -Old Naeem Hussain, killed on August 5 after attending the funerals of the other two victims.
There is “good enough evidence that” authorities continue to view Syed as the “most likely person of interest or suspect” in those killings as well, Kyle Hartsock, deputy commander of the Department of Criminal Investigations Division, said Tuesday. city police.
The murders and the course of the investigation
The murders Syed is accused of – of Aftab Hussein and Muhammad Afzaal Hussain – occurred within days of each other and police quickly connected them after determining that casings found at the two crime scenes were likely fired with the same firearm, Hartsock said.
“We quickly started looking at other cases that might be similar and identifying that there might be a really active public threat,” Hartsock added.
It was then that police turned their attention to another unsolved homicide in the city: the November 7 murder of Mohammad Ahmadi, an Afghan who was found with gunshot wounds in the parking lot behind the business he ran. with his brother.
All three murders involved Muslim men who were “ambushed without warning, shot and killed”, Hartsock said.
Aftab Hussein was found July 26 with multiple gunshot wounds lying next to a car, police said. Detectives learned the shooter waited behind a bush near the driveway where the victim usually parked his vehicle and fired multiple times through the bush, according to the complaint.
Muhammud Afzaal Hussain was found on August 1 with multiple gunshot wounds by officers responding to reports of a drive-by shooting, the complaint says.
While police were still trying to determine if the three murders were linked, a fourth Muslim, Naeem Hussain, was shot and killed before midnight on August 5.
The shooting caused panic in Albuquerque’s Muslim community, while also triggering hundreds of tips for law enforcement, authorities said Tuesday.
Who is Mohammad Syed?
Syed is a father of six whose family has been in the United States for about six years since leaving Afghanistan, his daughter told CNN.
“My father is not a person who can kill someone. My father always talked about peace. That’s why we are here in the United States. We are from Afghanistan, fighting, shooting,” said she told CNN.
The daughter told CNN she married a man in February 2018 and her father was unhappy with the marriage at the time, but more recently accepted it. She said her husband was friends with two victims, Aftab Hussein and Naeem Hussain.
Syed previously had “a few misdemeanor arrests (from the Albuquerque Police Department) for domestic violence” and a few other incidents, Hartsock said. All three domestic violence charges Syed faced were dismissed, Hartsock said.
Authorities previously said Syed’s sons were questioned and released as part of the investigation. On Wednesday, one of the suspect’s sons, Maiwand Syed, also known as Shaheen Syed, was arrested for giving a false address when buying firearms last summer. The serial numbers of the firearms mentioned in his father’s arrest warrant and the son’s charging documents do not match and there is no indication from the police that the son’s weapons are linked to the four murders .
The son said he was not involved in the shooting.
CNN’s Ashley Killough, Ed Lavandera, Jason Hanna and Christina Maxouris contributed to this report.