Chapel Hill shooting: Mourners pay tribute to victims at candlelit vigil

Mourners lovingly spelled out the victims' name in candle wax in a makeshift memorial at the event

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The Independent US

Thousands of mourners gathered at a vigil at the University of North Carolina campus today, to honour three young Muslims who were shot dead at home on Tuesday evening.

Second-year University of North Carolina dental student Deah Barakat, 23, his wife, 21-year-old Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, were “murdered execution style”, according to the women’s father.

Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, who has described himself as a “gun toting” atheist, has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder.

Touching images from the vigil show mourners clutching candles as family, friends and loved-ones paid tributes to the young victims who were praised as selfless and kind.

Namee Barakat, father of shooting victim Deah Shaddy Barakat, cries as a video is played during a vigil

Namee Barakat with his wife Layla (R) and daughter Suzanne, family of shooting victim Deah Shaddy Barakat (Reuters)

Barakat and wife Abu-Salha met while helping to run the Muslim Student Association at North Carolina State, before he began pursuing an advanced degree in dentistry at UNC. The newlyweds were dedicated volunteers, and helped the homeless and raised money to help Syrian refugees in Turkey.

Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, who graduated in December, planned to join her husband at dentistry school in the fall.

Meanwhile, Razan was visiting them Tuesday from Raleigh, where she studied architecture at North Carolina State.


Among those attending was Deah’s 10-year-old brother Basem, who said through tears: “I want to see him again, I didn’t get to say bye”, according to the North Carolina-based News Observer.

People listen to speakers and hold candles during the vigil

Dentistry students and others huddle together during the vigil at the University of North Carolina (Getty Images)

Other images show mourners piecing together a makeshift memorial, using melted candle wax to spell out the victims’ names.

Following the tragic shooting, the families of the victims issued a joint statement calling on police to investigate the incident as a hate crime, after officers said the shooting was in connection with an existing parking dispute.

The wife of suspect Craig Stephen Hicks “claimed this had nothing to do with religion or the victims’ faith”.

Dentistry students and others watch as a makeshift memorial is made during the vigil (Getty Images)

The makeshift memorial (Getty Images)

Suzanne Askar, right, rests her head on the shoulder of Safam Mahate, a student at North Carolina State University, as they stand next to Nida Allam, far left, during the vigil (Getty Images)

Loved ones speak during the vigil (Getty Images)

Neighbours described Hicks as angry and confrontational, while his ex-wife said he was obsessed with the 1993 shooting-rampage movie Falling Down and showed “no compassion at all” for other people.

Speaking to the press last night, Deah’s mother Layla Barakat said: "His legacy is never hate.

"You don't respond back by hating the other. You respond back by love. By peace, by mercy. That's Deah's way," she said.

Additional reporting by AP