Craig Stephen Hicks, the North Carolina man who was charged in the murders of three young Muslim students in the vicinity of the University of North Carolina campus in Chapel Hill Tuesday, described himself as an “anti-theist” and was a strident critic of religions on his social-media profiles, the Independent reported. The Chapel Hill resident’s online activity has led many on social media to question whether he targeted his victims in an anti-Muslim attack.
Hicks, 46, was arrested after turning himself in to police, who said he had been charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of Deah Barakat, 23, Yusor Mohammad, 21, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19. All three, either present or future students at schools in the area, were shot in the head, according to the Washington Post. Authorities have not yet specified a motive for the killings.
— Geysar Gurbanov (@geysar) February 11, 2015
Frequent posts about atheism and featuring anti-religion views appeared on a Facebook page in Hicks’ name, with a recent post reading: “People say nothing can solve the Middle East problem, not mediation, not arms, not financial aid. I say there is something. Atheism.” One post also featured a photograph of a revolver on a scale bearing the caption: “Yes, that is 1 pound 5.1 ounces for my loaded 38 revolver, its holster, and five extra rounds in a speedloader.” According to the page, Hicks studied as a paralegal at Durham Technical Community College in Durham, North Carolina, and was a supporter of “Atheists for Equality.” The authenticity of the page has yet to be verified.
The shooting was met with anger on social media, where photos of the victims have been shared widely along with the hashtag #ChapelHillShooting. Many believe the shooting was an anti-Muslim hate crime based on Hick’s stated beliefs. Hicks was set to appear at a hearing at the Durham County Jail Wednesday, NBC News reported.