Police have yet to identify a motive in the gruesome shooting death of three young men of African descent in a Fort Wayne, Indiana, house.
Mohamedtaha Omar, 23, Adam Mekki, 20, and Muhannad Tairab, 17, were killed “execution-style” on Wednesday, according to Fort Wayne’s public safety director Rusty York.
Two of the young men were Muslim and one was Christian, according to Michael Joyner, a spokesman for the Fort Wayne Police Department. Joyner did not know which of the slain young men was Christian.
The police department's investigation "ruled out" the possibility that the killings were a hate crime, Joyner said Monday, but it has not yet identified a suspect or a motive.
Joyner noted that one of the men who lives in the home where the young men were killed is "known to law enforcement and known to associate with gangs." The man was not present in the house when the three young men were found.
Hamzah Sharif, the imam of the Islamic Center of Fort Wayne, did not mention a possible motive in a Facebook message about the young men’s funeral. He instead lauded the presence of the town’s other communities of faith at the service.
“All of [the] Fort Wayne community showed unity and solidarity against violence and stood together to pray for the three young men along with their families,” Sharif wrote.
Although one of the young men was Christian, some in the Muslim American community expressed a deep sense of loss after initial reports that all three victims were Muslim.
Ahmed Abdelmageed, director of experiential education at Manchester University’s college of pharmacy in Fort Wayne, acknowledged that the deaths were an especially painful blow for Muslims, but warned against assuming it was a hate crime.
“‘Execution Style’ and the word ‘Muslim’ have certainly been forever ingrained in the minds of American Muslims and they trigger painful images of 3 beautiful souls lost for simply being Muslim,” Abdelmageed wrote on Facebook. “I caution however that the reason does not appear to be related to them being Muslim.”
But the incident comes amid a wave of anti-Muslim incidents in the wake of the November terror attack in Paris. Some people, many of them Muslim, took to Twitter to question law enforcement’s contention that the crime was unrelated to the faith of two of the victims, and to call for an investigation of the killings as a hate crime.
Others expressed anger at what they say is the national news media’s inattention to the incident.
That Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) has yet to publicly comment on the young men’s deaths is likely to fuel these suspicions. ThinkProgress noted that, by contrast, Pence has publicly offered condolences for a number of other violent incidents outside of the state in recent years, such as the August shooting of a TV correspondent and cameraman in Roanoke, Virginia.
MPower Change, a Muslim online activism group, has started a petition calling for the Fort Wayne Police Department to "conduct a full and comprehensive investigation" of the killings. The group is promoting awareness of the killings on social media with #OurThreeBoys.
UPDATE: Feb. 29 -- Original reports on Sunday identified all three men as Muslim. Details have been updated throughout the article in light of the latest information from authorities in Fort Wayne.