Suspect charged in killings of NY imam, assistant

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NEW YORK – A Brooklyn man has been charged with two counts of second-degree murder in connection with the shooting deaths of a New York imam and his assistant, police said late Monday.

The suspect, Oscar Morel, 35, had been originally arrested Sunday night on charges related to a hit-and-run accident, NYPD Chief of Detectives Bob Boyce said at a press conference.

During a search, police found a revolver and clothing believed to have been used by the alleged gunman the day of the fatal shootings. A law enforcement official had said that the items had turned up in a wall of the suspect’s home.

On Saturday, Imam Maulama Akonjee, 55, and his assistant, Thara Uddin, 64, were gunned down after prayers at a nearby mosque, police said.

There still is no indication that this was a hate crime, police said.

Akonjee and Uddin were shot in the head about 1:50 p.m. in Ozone Park, a working-class section of Queens with a burgeoning Bangladeshi population.

“There is nothing in the preliminary investigation that would indicate they were targeted because of their faith,” NYPD Deputy Inspector Henry Sautner told reporters Saturday.

The victims were wearing religious attire at the time of the shooting, according to a law enforcement source with direct knowledge of the investigation.

Al-Furqan Jame Masjid Mosque is about two blocks from where the men were gunned down. They were walking home after midday prayers.

Nazim Uddin, a neighbor of the imam, told CNN he ran outside from his home when he heard gunfire. He remembered the imam as a good man who only a day earlier had delivered a eulogy at the mosque.

What the investigation found

Police said surveillance video captured the gunman leaving the scene with his weapon in hand.

Officers reviewed surveillance video that placed a black GMC Trailblazer at the scene of the killings, said Boyce.

Officers were conducting surveillance of the suspect’s vehicle when they observed him enter his car. When the detectives approached him, the suspect allegedly rammed into their vehicle several times with his Trailblazer, according to Boyce.

The man was arrested on hit-and-run and assault-on-a-police-officer allegations after crashing into the unmarked police car. Morel also faces two counts of criminal possession of a weapon, according to the NYPD.

No motive in the killings has been determined, according to Boyce.

By Shimon Prokupecz and Pilar Melendez, CNN

CNN’s Dominique Debucquoy-Dodley, Sara Ganim, Linh Tran and Laura Ly contributed to this report.

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