The suspect in a series of shootings in downtown Fresno wrote frequently about the conflict between whites and blacks and did not seem well in recent days, according to family members.
Kori Ali Muhammad, 39, has been arrested in the shootings, which killed three people. Police have not provided a motive in the attack. As he was taken into custody, he yelled out "Allahu Akbar," Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said. But officials emphasized that they were not sure whether this was an act of terrorism.
According to his grandmother, Kori Muhammad changed his name from Kori Taylor to Kori Ali Muhammad when he was between 14 and 16 years old. He has at least one younger brother and was always considered the outlier in the family.
"He was a different kind of boy; he was different from all my kids," Glenestene Taylor said. "I don't know why he got on this Muhammad stuff … he tried to tell me about it."
Though authorities say Muhammad was homeless, his grandmother said he actually had places to live.
"He maybe would call himself homeless because he didn't have a place he's paying for with his name on it, but he always stays with some relative," Taylor said. "He always knew he could come here if he needed to."
In fact, Taylor said, Muhammad dropped by her Fresno home Sunday. He came to "pick up some things" from the garage, then left. But even in the brief encounter, Taylor said she noticed Muhammad was acting out of sorts.
"He didn't seem OK," she said. "He was crying, acting different from how Kori usually acts."
In a span of a few minutes Tuesday morning, Muhammad, 39, fatally shot three white men he randomly encountered while walking through the streets of Fresno, police allege. The rampage was preceded by a deadly encounter Thursday night at a Motel 6, where police say Muhammad killed another white man — a security guard.
Together the killings were Muhammad's contribution to a war he believed was ongoing between white and black men, said his father, Vincent Taylor.
A Facebook profile page for a Kori Ali Muhammad from Fresno paid homage to black pride and black nationalism, with images of the red, green and black Pan-African flag and images of a raised fist. The page listed him as a "warrior" for RBG Nation, referencing red, black and green.
He posted numerous photos of himself in traditional African garments.
In recent days, he repeatedly posted images to his Facebook page with the hashtag #LETBLACKPEOPLEGO. He referenced “white devils” and praised
Shortly before that, he posted: "BLACK WARRIORS MOUNT UP AND RIDE OUT *ASÈ* #LETBLACKPEOPLEGO."
Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino, says many of Muhammad's social media postings reference terms used by the Nation of Islam, which has been labeled a racist hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Pointing to Muhammad's repeated references to "white devils" and "Yakub," the villainous figure responsible for creating white people, according to Nation of Islam lore, Levin says it is likely Muhammad thought he was taking part in a race war.
Ase (pronounced ah-SHAY), Levin said, is a term from the Yoruba people of Nigeria, referencing a concept that there is power in our spirituality, words and feelings.
In February, Muhammad released an explicit, racially themed hip-hop album called "True Story Kori" under the name B-God MacSun. The cover shows him holding up a clenched fist.
Muhammad sings that he is an "Asiatic black god," and repeatedly references violence between black and white people.
On a song called "Black Father," he sings: "Black father, the maker, the owner, the cream of the planet Earth. Asiatic black man, God of the universe. We didn't start as slaves. They really don't want us and our ancient ways."
In that song, Muhammad sings of a dysfunctional family and dealing drugs as a teenager and having "a trigger finger for the haters that be flexin'."
"Lucky for me, I was born a black soldier," he sings.
In another song called "U Gone Need Me," he sings of "white devils," a "murder squad," and the west side of Fresno. In a music video posted to YouTube last month, he sings and spins in circles near railroad tracks while holding a scepter and wearing an ornamental cross over his face.
Taylor now believes that she misread her grandson's tearful goodbye to her on Easter morning in Fresno.
"I thought he was going to leave town — that's the impression I got," said Taylor, 81. "I thought that's why he's upset, because he thinks of me as a mother. He's always telling me, 'I'll take care of it. I'll protect you. Don't you worry about it.' He really didn't want to go but he was going."
"He was crying when he said bye. I haven't seen him cry like that. That was unusual to me," Taylor said. "He said he wasn't going to see me again. He was really upset."
4:36 p.m.: This article was updated with more details from the suspect's grandmother.
3:40 p.m.: This article was updated with an interview with Brian Levin and details about Muhammad's hip-hop album.