Brooklyn Man Charged With Killing Imam and Assistant Near Mosque

Source: The New York Times

Two days after an imam and his assistant were gunned down after afternoon prayers in Queens, the police said late Monday that a man they had in custody had been charged in the killings.

The man, Oscar Morel of Brooklyn, 35, who was taken into custody late Sunday after the police connected him to a hit and run that occurred about a mile away from the fatal attack, faces two counts of second-degree murder and two counts of criminal possession of a weapon, the police said.

A police official said investigators had found what they believe was the murder weapon in the man’s home as well as clothes matching the description of what the gunman had been wearing during the shootings. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the gun was found inside a wall in his apartment, on Miller Avenue in the East New York neighborhood, in a cavity that had apparently been cut open and resealed.

A man who answered a phone listed for Mr. Morel’s family said that he was stunned by the arrest. “That is our relative,” the man said, his voice soft and shaking with emotion. “We are just finding out ourselves. We’re pulling together the pieces as well.”

In Bangladesh, the oldest of the imam’s seven children, Fayez Uddin Akonjee, 28, said he was relieved at the charges and expressed gratitude to the police. But in an interview in his native language, Bengali, he was still seething with anger.
“We want to know as victims why he killed my father,” he said. “What was his motive behind killing my father? Whether he was hired or appointed by someone else to kill my father or did he himself plan and kill my father?”

Earlier Monday evening, New York City officials sought to reassure members of the Muslim community in New York, saying that a “strong person of interest” was in police custody.

At a news conference, Mayor Bill de Blasio acknowledged the fear that had spread among members of the city’s Bangladeshi community over concerns that the two men, who were dressed in religious garb at the time of the attack, had been targeted because of their faith.

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