A New York City man was charged Monday in Saturday’s shooting deaths of an imam and his associate as they left a mosque in Queens. Police say the suspect, Oscar Morel, 35, of Brooklyn, is charged with two counts of second-degree murder and criminal possession of a weapon.
Police Deputy Inspector Henry Sautner describes how the crime occurred:
“[The] 2 victims were walking northbound on 79 Street and as they were turning onto Liberty Avenue, they were approached from behind by what witnesses and video surveillance shows, a male with medium complexion dressed in a dark polo shirt and shorts. Immediately after the victims were shot, the same male was seen fleeing from the scene southbound on 79 street. Witnesses stated they observed the male fleeing with a gun in his hand.”
“Morel can be seen on the surveillance video fleeing the area of the shooting in a black GMC Trailblazer just after Imam Maulana Alauddin Akonjee and Thara Uddin were shot, said the New York Police Department’s chief of detectives, Robert Boyce.
“About 10 minutes later, a car matching that description struck a bicyclist about three miles away in Brooklyn, he said.
“Morel was arrested late Sunday night outside a Brooklyn apartment after intentionally ramming his car into an unmarked police cruiser trying to block him in, Boyce said.”
Police think they’ve found evidence of the crime at the suspect’s home, according to the The New York Times.
“A police official said investigators had found what they believe was the murder weapon in the man’s home as well as clothes matching the description of what the gunman had been wearing during the shootings. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the gun was found inside a wall in his apartment, on Miller Avenue in the East New York neighborhood, in a cavity that had apparently been cut open and resealed.”
At a news conference, the Times writes, Boyce says investigators don’t know the motivation for the attack, “adding that it was “certainly on the table that it’s a hate crime.”
Earlier Monday, Akonjee and Uddin were mourned in an outdoor service, reports WNYC reporter Stephen Nessen:
“In a scorching-hot parking lot in Queens, Muslims from across the city gathered to pray for 55-year-old Imam Maulana [Alauddin] Akonjee and 64-year-old Thara Uddin. Many [people who attended] held signs reading ‘We Want Justice’ and ‘Stop Hate Crimes.’ …
“Mayor Bill de Blasio [told the mourners] mosques would be given extra protection.”