Police in California say suspect wanted to kill as many white people as possible and incident appears to have no terrorism link
This article titled “Fresno shooting: three killed by gunman in suspected race attack” was written by Julia Carrie Wong in San Francisco, Sam Levin in Fresno and agencies, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 19th April 2017 09.48 UTC
Three white men have been shot and killed by a black gunman in Fresno, California, in a suspected race attack, police have said.
The suspect, Kori Ali Muhammad, allegedly said “God is great” in Arabic before he was arrested, the police chief, Jerry Dyer, said at a news conference on Tuesday afternoon.
However, Dyer said the shooting did not appear to be connected to terrorism.
“He [Muhammad] did clarify that the reason he had made that statement was that in the event that anything did happen to him he was in fact pledging his allegiance to God for protection,” he said.
Muhammad wanted to kill as many white people as possible before going to jail, Dyer said, adding: “This is solely based on race.”
The shooter fired 16 rounds in less than a minute in the central California city, killing a passenger in a utility van and two pedestrians.
Muhammad is also a suspect in the fatal shooting of a security guard at a Motel 6 on the night of 13 April, Dyer said, and had a criminal record that included weapons violations, drugs, false imprisonment and terrorist threats.
His Facebook page expressed “anti-government sentiment” and included “some posts that say he does not like white people”, Dyer said. All four victims were white men.
Dyer said that the police planned to charge Muhammad with four counts of homicide and two counts of attempted murder. He also said that the FBI had been contacted “based on the statement [Muhammad] made today and based on some of the postings he made on Facebook”.
“I’m certain they’ll be interested in this case,” Dyer added.
The shooting happened outside a Catholic Charities building but a spokeswoman, Teresa Dominguez, said the charity did not believe the suspect was linked to the non-profit organisation.
The three victims have not been identified. One was a passenger in a Pacific Gas & Electric vehicle. The driver of the vehicle drove to the police station after the shooting to alert the police. The other two are believed to be clients of Catholic Charities, a food pantry and social services provider.
Tina Stevenson, a care provider who works in the neighbourhood, said the shooting had caused chaos and panic in the area, where many elderly residents live.
“People were running, screaming and hysterical, not knowing if they were going to lose their lives in the blink of an eye,” said Stevenson, 48, who arrived just after the shooting ended.
Residents were still trying to process the news hours later, Stevenson said. “We can’t understand what would go through a man’s mind and make him kill innocent souls.”
Mercedes, who lives across the street and declined to give her last name, said residents hid when they heard the gunshots.
“We went inside really fast when it happened,” she said, adding that she was at first afraid that the shooting could have occurred at a nearby school. But, she said, “we hear [gunshots] quite often.”
Stephanie Aguilar, 22, who lives nearby, stood by the crime scene on Tuesday afternoon, where the surrounding streets remained closed off by caution tape and guarded by police officers.
“It’s so dangerous here. There are a lot of shootings,” she said. “I worry about these things happening outside on the streets.”
Aguilar said there was often gang-related violence in the area, but that she had never heard of a random killing. “This is crazy.”
“Our city is in need of lots of prayer,” added Stevenson.
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