The mother of one of the three victims of the Chapel Hill shooting has lead tributes to her son during a candlelit vigil.
Thousands gathered at the centre of the University of North Carolina campus, where 23-year-old Deah Barakat was in his second year of studying to become a dentist.
He along with his wife, 21-year-old Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, were “murdered execution style” at home on Tuesday evening.
The families of the victims have issued a joint statement calling on police to investigate the incident as a hate crime, but officers say there was an existing dispute over parking and the wife of suspect Craig Stephen Hicks “claimed this had nothing to do with religion or the victims’ faith”.
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.
Local network WNCN reported how UNC chancellor Carol Folt was brought to tears while speaking to the gathered crowd. She said it had been “one of the saddest and most incomprehensible days of my life”.
Razan Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha had been studying architecture at North Carolina State University and was visiting her sister and brother-in-law at the time of the shooting. Representatives from her university were also present at the vigil.
Ms Folt said: “This is a tremendous loss to the Carolina and NC State campuses. My thoughts and prayers are with the families, fellow students, faculty and friends of these three very promising students.”
Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said in a statement via the town website: “Our community has been rocked by a horrible crime with the shootings of three young people.
“I share strong feelings of outrage and shock with my fellow citizens and University students - as well as concerned people everywhere. We do not know whether anti-Muslim bias played a role in this crime, but I do recognize the fear that members of our community may feel. Chapel Hill is a place for everyone, a place where Muslim lives matter.”
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