(NEW YORK) — The suspected killer of an imam and his associate in Queens, New York, was arraigned Tuesday afternoon.
Oscar Morel is accused of the deadly double shooting of Imam Maulana Akonjee, 55, and his associate Thara Uddin, 64, as they walked home from Saturday afternoon prayers at the Al-Furqan Jame Masjid mosque in Ozone Park, Queens.
Morel, 35, of Brooklyn, was arraigned Tuesday on a criminal complaint charging him with one count of first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder and two counts of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon.
No plea was entered and he was ordered held without bail. Morel will return to court on Thursday, at which time a homicide attorney will be assigned to represent him.
Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said the victims’ “deaths are a devastating loss to their families and the community that they served as men of peace.”
“While the motivation for this violent act is still unclear and continues to be investigated, one of the possible motives being explored is whether this was a hate crime,” Brown said.
“Whether a hate crime was committed in this case, the crime will be vigorously prosecuted and we will seek the most serious penalties that our law allows,” Brown added.
If convicted, Morel faces up to life in prison without parole.
Bangladeshi Community Board Leader Fakrul Islam Delwar told ABC News Tuesday, “We strongly believe it’s a hate crime because this man [Morel] had nothing to do with anything with the community.”
Fakrul said of the victims, “They had no business with anybody. … We strongly believe they were targeted because of their Muslim wear.”
Fakrul said the gunman “took two peaceful men from their families.”
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