Tuesday’s Chapel Hill shooting victims were by all reports highly-motivated young adults who greatly contributed to the prosperity and welfare of their North Carolina community.
Initial reports, informed by the victims’ own personal social media accounts, present a picture of Deah Barakat, 23, his wife Yusor Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister Razan Abu-Salha, 19, as hardworking, thoughtful students — celebrating weddings, serving the homeless, and raising funds for refugees driven from their homes by war in the Middle East.
Barakat was a second-year dental student at UNC Chapel Hill, who married Yusor Abu-Salha in December. An American of Syrian descent, he was particularly moved by the plight of victims in Syria’s civil war, and together with a fellow dentistry student he helped raise thousands of dollars for refugees’ dental care.
Since militant atheist Craig Hicks killed the young family in what appears to be a terrorist attack Tuesday, strangers have continued contributing to the fund, in Barakat’s memory.
He was also active on Twitter and Facebook, posting about a charity drive to help Chapel Hill’s homeless:
He also expressed frustration with militant Muslims who think it’s a “solution” to “Kill Jews.”
It’s so freaking sad to hear people saying we should “kill Jews” or “Kill Palestinians”. As if that’s going to solve anything SMH
— Deah Barakat (@arabprodigy30) January 28, 2015
But Barakat was anything but “militant.”
His new bride, Yusor Abu-Salha, was also planning to enroll in dentistry school; she graduated with a biology degree from North Carolina State shortly before the nuptials. She had posted a photo from her wedding to Facebook the day before she died, dancing with her father at the reception.
One North Carolina professor realized, as news broke of their death, that the couple had volunteered at the local library to teach his daughter about dental health.
My god, I just realized that the victims of the terror attack taught my daughter about dentistry at the Chapel Hill Public Library.
— Ryan Shaw (@rybesh) February 11, 2015
Her sister Razan, who lived in the couple’s home, was a 19-year-old NC State undergraduate studying architecture and environmental design. In one photo online, her brother-in-law jokingly described her as “the best third wheel ever.” A web-savvy teenager, she posted comical Vine videos with her friends, making American dance moves to Arab party music.
And she explored her artistic side, posting carefully composed photographs to Facebook.
Their shooter, 46-year-old Craig Hicks, shot them in the head, “execution style,” according to local news. He has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder. He had described himself online as an atheist who opposed all religions, though authorities have yet to confirm any religious connection, referencing instead a “parking dispute.”
Friends of the family have started a Facebook page called “Our Three Winners” which will post updates on the funeral arrangements and other commemorations
The FBI describes “domestic terrorism” as involving illegal “acts dangerous to human life” within the U.S., with intent to intimidate civilians or change government policy.
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