Police have identified a man they arrested in connection with the shooting of theMuslim cleric and his associate Saturday on the street in Ozone Park, Queens, NYPD officials said. The same man is believed to be responsible for a hit-and-run crash in Brooklyn, just several miles away from where the two men were gunned down
The suspect has been identified as 35-year-old Oscar Morel. Morel, 276 Miller Ave., Brooklyn, has been charged with two counts of Murder 2 and two counts of Criminal Possession of a Weapon 2.
The shooting has not been ruled out as a hate crime, NBC4 New York reporterRay Villeda tweeted.
NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said at a news conference Monday that the vehicle in the hit and run is the same black GMC Trailblazer in which the gunman fled after shooting the two men from behind as they walked home from a prayer service at theAl-Furqan Jame Masjid mosque.
A gun and clothing matching those from the shooting were found hidden in the wall of Morel’s East New York, Brooklyn home,NBC4 New York reported.
Using video surveillance to track the black Trailblazer the shooter fled in, NYPD located a car that matched the car from the scene of the hit-and-run. Believing the same car was used in both incidents, police watched the vehicle. Around 10 p.m. on Sunday,a man started to get into the car. When police appoached him, the suspect began to ram his car into the detectives’ car, Boyce said.
Morel was arrested and questioned about both crimes. An eyewitness identified Morel as the person he saw in the fleeing car at the scene of the accident.
“Two teachers, two guides … [were] killed in cold blood,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Monday afternoon referring toImam Maulama Akonjee, 55, and Thara Uddin, 64, who were both shot at point-blank range.
De Blasioaddressed the “fear in the community” and said that the NYPD, including the 900 Muslim-Americans in the department, will protect Muslim communities.
— NYC Mayor’s Office (@NYCMayorsOffice) August 14, 2016
De Blasio spoke at the outdoor funeral service for the two shooting victims earlier on Monday.
“And we know there are voices all over this country who are spewing hate, trying to create division, trying to turn one American against another,” the mayor said as he addressed the mourners. “I look around at all my brothers and sisters here, I see proud Americans. I see proud New Yorkers. And I will never let us be torn apart, and we will not let each other be torn apart. We’re not going to listen to those voices that try to divide us, and we’re not going to let them continue to encourage acts of hatred. We will stand up to them each and every time. We will make sure that whoever did this is brought to justice – I can guarantee you that.”
— Mayoral Photo Office (@NYCMayoralPhoto) August 15, 2016
“But you will see – you will see in the Muslim communities of our city, the NYPD there in support of the community. You will see today and in the days thereafter, extra NYPD presence protecting our mosques and protecting the people of our Muslim communities,” de Blasio continued.
“And that is how we affirm to all New Yorkers, but also to people all over the world that the values of this city are consistent, and an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us, and we stand shoulder to shoulder.
“We – even in a time of pain – New Yorkers are strong and resilient and we seek unity. In the word of the Quran, ‘To God we all belong and to God is our return.'”