The NYPD reportedly has a suspect in custody for the double murder of a Queens imam and his assistant.
A 35-year-old Ozone Park man was apprehended at roughly 11 p.m. Sunday night, according to the Post: "Cops arrested the man, who had not yet been charged, after tracking him through an old-model Chevy Trailblazer similar to the one the killer was spotted getting into at the scene of the crime." Sources also told ABC News that a "person of interest" had been taken into custody.
The Daily News reports, "The killer... may have been settling a score in a feud between Muslims and Hispanics, police sources said early Monday."
An NYPD spokesperson could not confirm the arrest Monday morning, but police sources tell the Post and News that a man is being held at the 75th Precinct in East New York on suspicion of fatally shooting Maulama Akonjee, 55, an imam at Al-Furqan Jame Masjid mosque, along with his assistant Thara Uddin, 64, as they walked toward their apartment building shortly before 2 p.m. Saturday.
Both Akonjee and Uddin were shot by the corner of 79th Street and Liberty Avenue at point-blank range in the head and later died at Jamaica Hospital. Worshippers at the Al-Furqan mosque, as well as neighborhood residents rallied in the street Saturday night decrying the murders as motivated by Islamophobic hate.
Surveillance video showing a man approaching Akonjee and Uddin from behind, opening fire, and fleeing the scene, was released to the public yesterday. NYPD sources told the Post they suspect the killer "knew the imam and knew his schedule."
— Eyewitness News (@ABC7NY) August 14, 2016
And the News adds, "[T]he killer may have gotten sloppy in his haste after pulling the trigger and hit a bicyclist with his car, sources said. The cyclist took down the car's license plate number and gave it to police, who began tracking down their man."
A police source said of the shooter, "[The killer] turns and walks away deliberately, not in a great rush. It appears he has some degree of training or proficiency."
"That's not what America is about," Khairul Islam told the Daily News in the hours after the double murder. "We blame Donald Trump for this...Trump and his drama has created Islamophobia." Akonjee had reportedly planned to return to Bangladesh later this month to attend his son's wedding.
"We are devastated," Kobir Chowdhury, president of another Ozone Park mosque told the News. "We need to get to the bottom of this. We need to know if they did this just because of our religion...[Akonjee was] a role model as an imam, as a father, as a community member. He didn't have any disputes with anybody."
In a statement released last night, Mayor Bill de Blasio said, "This weekend our city was stung by violence that devastated a congregation and unsettled a community. When religious leaders are targeted, we all bear the pain those in Ozone Park feel most personally today. While we do not yet know the motivation for the murders of Maulama Akonjee and Thara Uddin, we do know that our Muslim communities are in the perpetual crosshairs of bigotry. It remains critical that we work to bridge the divides that threaten to undermine the greatness of our city and country. Rest assured that our NYPD will bring this killer to justice."