An American-born terrorist who carried out a deadly shooting in front of an Arkansas military recruiting station pleaded guilty to his crimes in an Arkansas courtroom Monday, earning a life sentence without parole and avoiding the death penalty.
Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, 26, a convert to Islam, had previously confessed to the 2009 crime, in which he drove to the recruiting office in Little Rock and fired numerous rounds, killing one Army soldier and wounding another. Police said he told them he did so to protest the U.S. military and "what they had done to Muslims in the past."
But Muhammad originally pleaded not guilty to murder and other charges.
Muhammad's jury trial, which began last week, was notable for taking place in state court. Other terrorism-related cases since the Sept. 11 attacks have been tried in federal courts, but none have resulted in a death sentence.
On Monday morning prosecutors received his written plea offer. Larry Jegley, prosecuting attorney for Arkansas' 6th Judicial District, said his office relayed the offer to the families of the victims, Army Pvts. William Long, 23, and Quinton Ezeagwula, who decided they could tolerate a life sentence.
"They showed a heck of a lot more mercy to Abdulhakim Muhammad … than he did to their boys," Jegley said.
In a telephone interview, he said Muhammad "comes from good family" in Memphis. He said the victims' relatives were seen embracing Muhammad's family members in an emotionally charged scene after the trial.
Ezeagwula's mother, Sonja, 46, said in a telephone interview that she was not wholly satisfied with the outcome. Her son, who was 18 at the time of the shooting, still has dozens of bullet fragments in his body, and suffers from serious physical and psychological pain. And she did not believe that Muhammad was remorseful.
"Who's to say if he's in prison he won't recruit other people who think the way he thinks?" she said.