Police released a video Sunday and a sketch of the suspected gunman in the killings of an imam and a second man who were shot as they walked home Saturday afternoon from a mosque in OzonePark, Queens.
The two men were walking home from prayers at the Al-Furqan Jame Masjid mosque just before 2 p.m. Saturday, police told DNAinfo, when they were approached from behind by a tall man in a dark polo shirt and shorts. Both were found shot point-blank in the head at Liberty Avenue and 79th Street. Witnesses reported seeing the same man fleeing with a gun in his hand.
WARNING: Video might be graphic for some viewers
Police identified the slain imam as 55-year-old Maulama Akomjee. The second man has been identified as Akomjee’s brother-in-law, 64-year-oldThara Uddin. The bodies were found by chance by Thara Uddin’s 28-year-old nephew, Rezwan Uddin. Akomjee was declared dead at the scene. TharaUddin was taken to Jamaica Hospital where he was pronounced dead four hours later.
TheNew York Daily News reportedthat dozens of angry Muslim men gathered at the murder scene, “making it clear they believed the shooting was a hate crime — with the two religious leaders specifically targeted.”
— Matthew Chayes (@chayesmatthew) August 13, 2016
Both victims were dressed in traditional Muslim garb, but authorities have not determined if the men were targeted because of their faith.
“That’s not what America is about,” said 33-year-old local resident Khairul Islam, theNew York Daily News reported. “We blame Donald Trump for this . . . Trump and his drama has created Islamophobia.”
Earlier in the week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called Trump’s words about Islam “reckless.”
NYC is a top terror target. Donald Trump’s recent reckless and false claims about ISIS don’t make us any safer.
— Bill de Blasio (@BilldeBlasio) August 11, 2016
The motive remains unclear. Law enforcement sourcesreportedly told NBC New Yorkthat the shooting appears to have occurred during a robbery, but Akomjee had more than $1,000 in cash still on him when his body was found. Another police sourcetold ABC 7that no argument or exchange of words appeared to precede the shooting.
“The perpetrator of these senseless killings must be swiftly apprehended and face the full force of the law,” Executive Director of the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Afaf Nasher said in a statement,Patch reported. “We ask anyone with information about this attack to contact appropriate law enforcement authorities.”
Akomjee planned to travel to Bangladesh in 10 days to attend his son’s wedding, according to the Daily News. The victims each had three children.
Kimberly M. Aquilina contributed to this report.