Fresno police said they believe a shooting rampage downtown Tuesday that left three white men dead was racially motivated.
Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said the suspect, Kori Ali Muhammad, gave “very specific, detailed” information to police that led officers to believe this was a hate-motivated crime, but did not elaborate on what those statements were.
“If in fact he’s lashing out at white people — white males in this case — that would constitute a hate crime,” Dyer said. “We believe it is a hate crime, definitely a hate crime.”
The chief said investigators don’t believe Muhammad worked with anyone else in the attack, calling him “an individual that is filled with hate, filled with anger.”
Family members said Muhammad had spoken of a war going on between blacks and whites in America.
Here’s a rundown of what happened:
Thursday: Killing at motel
Police believe Muhammad killed a Motel 6 security guard, Carl Williams. The unarmed 25-year-old was shot outside the motel on North Blackstone Avenue.
Muhammad cut off his braids and shaved his face, significantly changing his appearance, after Fresno police put out a news release about that killing.
After being aware of that media release, Muhammad “made a decision to himself that he was not going to go to jail for shooting a security guard — that he was going to kill as many people as he could today and that’s what he set out to do,” Dyer said.
Sunday: Crying, acting strangely
Grandmother Glenestene Taylor said Muhammad was acting strangely when he visited her Sunday. He was crying, but she believed he was simply going out of town.
“I thought that’s why he’s upset, because he thinks of me as a mother,” said Taylor, 81. “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.”
Tuesday: Shooting rampage downtown
The shootings began around 10:30 a.m. in downtown Fresno.
Dyer said that Muhammad fired sixteen rounds in less than two minutes, but immediately surrendered when approached by Fresno Police Officer Frank Borrego, and made “spontaneous statements.”
“Those statements were ‘I did it. I shot them,’” Dyer said, adding that Muhammad identified himself and said, “You guys are looking for me.”
He yelled “Allahu akbar” from the back seat of the patrol car. Muhammad later said he made that statement in order to pledge allegiance to God in case anything happened to him, Dyer said.
The victims of Tuesday’s shootings were a 34-year-old white man who was a passenger in a PG&E vehicle, a 37-year-old white man killed on the sidewalk and a 58-year-old man shot in the Catholic Charities parking lot. Another 59-year-old white man was shot at but not struck.
The gunman also approached two Latina women, a mother and daughter, in a vehicle. He pointed the gun directly at them but did not fire. They drove away from the location, hearing gunfire as they left.
Dyer said Muhammad gave “very specific, detailed” information to police which led officer to believe this was a hate-motivated crime, but did not elaborate on what those statements were.
Muhammad was in the area because of several abandoned houses in the vicinity; according to Dyer, Muhammad was living on the streets and was hoping to stay at one such house. Muhammad’s grandmother said she didn’t believe he was homeless.
Mason and Marcum reported from Fresno, and Branson-Potts and Serna from Los Angeles. Times staff writers Richard Winton and Veronica Rocha contributed to this report.