The suspect who police say took three lives in downtown Fresno, Calif., had intended to go on a lethal rampage once he found out that he was being sought for an earlier homicide, police say. Now investigators have to piece together what drove Kori Ali Muhammad, 39, to open fire Tuesday afternoon and determine if what he did could be considered a hate crime.
“I can’t think of an incident we’ve had for a long period of time that even got close to what we saw today,” said Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer. “What I do know is this is an absolute tragedy that nobody will probably be able to make sense of because it stems from an individual who is filled with hate – filled with anger – who set out to shoot some individuals in our city today for no reason whatsoever other than what we believe to be (his own) hate.”
Muhammad is facing four counts of murder and two counts of assault with a deadly weapon, officials said. Despite the suspect’s alleged views, FBI officials have not yet labeled the killings as a hate crime, though Dyer believes they were.
Muhammad is accused of killing Zackary Randalls, 34, and two other men whose names have not been released, a 37-year-old and a 58-year-old in a midday shooting outside a Catholic Charities building. He is also charged in the death of Carl Williams, 25, a Motel 6 security guard, over a fight between himself, a woman he was visiting and the hotel staff, the Fresno Bee reported.
Dyer believes that race was the motivation behind the killings on Tuesday as well as Williams. Each of the victims was White, Muhammad is Black. At the scene of the shooting, Muhammad confessed to the first police officer at the scene “I did it. I shot them,” then identified himself, saying “You guys are looking for me.” At some point he is said to have uttered the Arabic phrase “Allahu Ackbar” (God is great). Similar words were not captured by surveillance cameras or heard by witnesses at the Motel 6 shooting.
Police believe that at some point Muhammad had learned that he was being sought in the Motel 6 shooting and decided “he was going to kill as many people as he could today and that’s what he set out to do,” said Dyer.
It is unclear if Muhammad is actually a Muslim, but he was reported to have espoused Black separatist views and posted them frequently on social media. On his Facebook page, he also praised Micah Xavier Johnson, the shooter who killed five Dallas police officers last summer during a peaceful demonstration against police violence. Dyer said that the suspect posted on the page that he “hates White people” and does not believe the shootings had anything to do with terrorism. “What we know is that this was a random act of violence,” Dyer said. “There is every reason to believe he acted alone.”