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Hundreds Remember N.C. Students Murdered In Possible Hate Crime


We are learning more this morning about the shooting deaths of three students in North Carolina. It is still not clear what role hate may have played. All the victims were Muslim.


Law enforcement agents in Chapel Hill are investigating the possibility of a hate crime. They say the shootings appear to be motivated by an ongoing parking dispute. And a neighbor, Craig Hicks, is charged with first-degree murder. Now we remember the victims. WUNC's Reema Khrais attended a vigil last night.


REEMA KHRAIS, BYLINE: Hundreds of people bow their heads as a college student recites verses from the Quran. Some are in tears, others holding candles silently. They're standing at the center of campus at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


FARRIS BARAKAT: I thank you all for coming here. I literally can't even see the end of the crowd. My family thanks you for coming here.

KHRAIS: Farris Barakat is the older brother of Deah Barakat, one of the victims. Deah's 21-year-old wife, Yusor Abu-Salha, and her sister, Razan Abu-Salha, were also shot to death on Tuesday in their apartment. Farris tells the crowd of friends and supporters that he wants them to remember their legacy.


BARAKAT: And take the message my mom wanted to make public and do not fight fire with fire.

KHRAIS: He says that if, in fact, the incident was based off evil and committed by a scared, ignorant man...


BARAKAT: Do not reply to ignorance with ignorance.

KHRAIS: His brother was a dental student at UNC. His wife was going to enroll there in the fall, and her younger sister was studying design and architecture at NC State. Chapel Hill police say their initial information is that the killings resulted from an ongoing parking dispute between Craig Hicks and his neighbors, but police say they will continue to investigate. Many Muslims around the world believe the murders were motivated by hate. Eighteen-year-old Yasmine Inaya was one of the victim's best friends. She says her community is heartbroken and confused.


YASMINE INAYA: So with this I say, Muslims' lives matter; all lives matter; white lives matter; black lives matter; humans all matter.

KHRAIS: The three funerals will be held later today. For NPR News, I'm Reema Khrais in Chapel Hill, N.C. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Reema Khrais joined WUNC in 2013 to cover education in pre-kindergarten through high school. Previously, she won the prestigious Joan B. Kroc Fellowship. For the fellowship, she spent a year at NPR where she reported nationally, produced on Weekends on All Things Considered and edited on the digital desk. She also spent some time at New York Public Radio as an education reporter, covering the overhaul of vocational schools, the contentious closures of city schools and age-old high school rivalries.