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Four Muslim men have been fatally shot over the last nine months in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and law enforcement officials believe that their deaths are connected, police said.
The most recent shooting death took place on Friday. Although police have not formally identified the victim, local news outlets have identified him as Naeem Hussain.
“These shootings are disturbing,” Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina said during a Saturday press conference. “We are putting every possible resource into these investigations.”
Even before Friday’s shooting, Albuquerque police were investigating the deaths of two Muslim men in the span of a week.
Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27, was shot dead on Monday. Aftab Hussein, 41, was found dead of gunshot wounds on July 26. Both men lived in southeast Albuquerque, were from Pakistan, and attended the same mosque, according to the New York Times.
Following the shooting deaths on Monday and July 26, police had said in a statement that they were re-examining the death of Mohammad Ahmadi, who was shot dead on Nov. 7, 2021, outside of a business he co-owned with his brother.
“Our homicide detectives and our investigators currently believe there is a strong possibility that the same individual committed all three of these crimes,” Kyle Hartsock, deputy commander of APD’s Criminal Investigations Division, said in the statement. “While we won’t go into why we think that, there’s one strong commonality in all of our victims, their race and religion.”
Harsock said that in the cases of Ahmadi, Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, and Hussein, the shooter “ambushed the victims with no warning, fired shots, and killed them.”
Then came Friday’s killing of Naeem Hussain. Medina said Saturday that “there is reason to believe” his death is related to the three earlier killings. In a tweet posted after the press conference, Medina noted that the CrimeStoppers tip line reward for providing information about the shootings leading to an arrest has been increased to $20,000.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations said in a statement Saturday that they will award $10,000 to the person who provides information to law enforcement that results in an arrest.
Police have so far declined to comment on whether they believed the crimes were the work of a serial killer.
“I think it is too early to comment on that or classify it with a term like that right now. This is an alarming death that connects to the others as far as we can tell, so we will focus on that and focus together with our federal partners,” APD Public Information Officer Gilbert Gallegos said Saturday.
But with little public information on a suspect or potential motive, people in the local Muslim community have become concerned.
“People are beginning to panic,” Tahir Gauba, the director of public affairs with the Islamic Center of New Mexico told the Albuquerque Journal.
Gauba said that the funerals for Muhammad Afzaal Hussain and Hussein had been held on Friday, hours before the fourth shooting took place. He said that Naeem Hussain, the fourth victim, had attended the service.
“Right now it is really tough to deal with it,” Gauba told the Journal. “Right after the funeral, the same day, that thing happened again. So it’s just really crazy.”
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a statement Saturday that she would be sending additional state law enforcement personnel to Albuquerque to assist in the investigation and provide whatever support is necessary.
“I am angered and saddened that this is happening in New Mexico, a place that prides itself on diversity of culture and thought. This is not who we are,” she said. “We will not stop in our pursuit of justice for the victims and their families and are bringing every resource to bear to apprehend the killer or killers — and we WILL find them. In addition, we will continue to do everything we can to support to the Muslim community during this difficult time
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