ALBUQUERQUE, NM (AP) — When arrested by New Mexico police, the suspect in the murder of four Muslim men in Albuquerque denied any connection to the crimes that rocked the city and its small Muslim community — and told authorities he was so enraged by the violence that he was driving to Houston to look for a new home, according to court documents.
Documents released Tuesday night in a criminal complaint said Muhammad Syed, 51, had only clothes, shoes and a handgun when he was stopped at a traffic stop more than 100 miles away on Monday. from his home in Albuquerque.
But investigators determined that casings found in Syed’s vehicle matched the caliber of guns allegedly used in two of the murders and that casings found at those crime scenes were linked to a gun found at Syed’s home, according to the police. criminal complaint.
Syed, an Afghan immigrant, told detectives he had served in special forces in Afghanistan and fought the Taliban. He also denied any involvement in the murders. Syed was due to appear in court on Wednesday afternoon. Prosecutors planned to ask that he be held without bond pending trial and court documents did not mention a lawyer who could speak on his behalf.
The ambush killings of the four Muslim men struck fear into the Muslim community in New Mexico’s largest city, but generated a flood of information, including information that led to the arrest of Syed, who knew the victims, authorities said.
Following the arrest, Albuquerque’s Muslim community breathed “an incredible sigh of relief,” said Ahmad Assed, president of the Islamic Center of New Mexico. “Lives have been turned upside down.”
The first murder last November was followed by three more between July 26 and August 5.
Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina said it’s not yet clear whether the deaths should be classified as hate crimes or serial murders or both.
Syed had lived in the United States for about five years, police said.
“The attacker knew the victims to some degree, and an interpersonal conflict may have led to the shooting,” a police statement said, although investigators are still working to identify how they got on. crusaders.
When asked specifically if Syed, a Sunni Muslim, was angry that his daughter married a Shia Muslim, the deputy police commander. Kyle Hartsock did not respond directly. He said “the motivations are still fully explored to understand what they are”.
Assed acknowledged that “there had been a wedding”, but he cautioned against drawing any conclusions about the motivation of Syed, who occasionally attended the center’s mosque.
In 2017, a boyfriend of Syed’s daughter reported to police that Syed, his wife and one of their sons pulled him out of a car, punching and kicking him before driving off, according to court documents. The boyfriend, who was found with a bloody nose, scratches and bruises, told police he was assaulted because they didn’t want her in a relationship with him.
Syed was also arrested in May 2018 after a fight with his wife turned violent, according to court documents.
Prosecutors said both cases were later dropped after the victims declined to press charges.
The Albuquerque killings caught the attention of President Joe Biden, who said such attacks “have no place in America.” They also sent a chill through Muslim communities across the United States. Some people questioned their safety and restricted their movements.
“There is no justification for this evil. There is no justification for taking an innocent life,” Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said at a press conference on Tuesday at Washington, DC.
He called the killings “deranged behavior”.
The first case concerns the murder in November of Mohammad Ahmadi, 62, from Afghanistan.
Naeem Hussain, a 25-year-old Pakistani man, was killed last Friday. His death came days after those of Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27, and Aftab Hussein, 41, also from Pakistan and members of the same mosque.
Ehsan Chahalmi, Naeem Hussain’s brother-in-law, said he was “a generous, kind, generous, forgiving and loving soul who was taken away from us forever”.
Investigators consider Syed to be the prime suspect in the deaths of Naeem Hussain and Ahmadi, but have not yet filed charges in the cases.
News that the shootings appeared to be linked produced more than 200 tips, including one from the Muslim community that police say led them to the Syed family.
Police said they were about to search Syed’s Albuquerque home on Monday when they saw him drive off in a Volkswagen Jetta that investigators believe was used in at least one of the murders.
Syed’s sons were interrogated and released, authorities said.
Dazio reported from Los Angeles and Fam from Winter Park, Florida. Associated Press writer Robert Jablon in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
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