LOS ANGELES (NYTIMES) - A homeless man who voiced a hatred of white people and of the government shot and killed three white people on the streets of Fresno, California, on Tuesday (April 18) before surrendering to the police, the authorities said.
The shooting rampage started shortly before 11am (2am Wednesday, Singapore time), when the gunman, identified by the police as Kori Ali Muhammad, walked up to a Pacific Gas and Electric pickup truck and fatally shot an employee in the passenger seat with a revolver.
Muhammad then walked down several other blocks near downtown Fresno, firing at people on sidewalks and in a parking lot and killing two of them, the police said.
A responding officer spotted Muhammad running from the Catholic Charities of Fresno, the site of the last shooting, and stopped him in a nearby crosswalk. While he was being placed under arrest, Muhammad shouted, “Allahu Akbar,” Arabic for “God is great,” the police said.
In total, Muhammad fired 16 bullets from a .357-caliber revolver within about a minute, reloading at least once, the police said. The second person killed was shot on a sidewalk, and the last was shot in the parking lot outside the Catholic Charities, the police said.
“These individuals who were chosen today did not do anything to deserve what they got,” Chief Jerry Dyer of the Fresno Police Department said.
Dyer said the police had contacted the FBI about possible links to terrorism.
“Certainly by the statement that was made today, it could have that indication,” Dyer said at a news conference. “I don’t know if he was on any kind of watch list, but I do know he was a very violent individual in our city.”
Muhammad, a 39-year-old drifter who went by nickname “Black Jesus” and whose family had cut off contact with him, had been on the run since Thursday, the police said.
The authorities believe he shot and killed a Motel 6 security guard, also a white male, that day after he was asked about showing up to meet a woman there without a reservation.
Even though he was wanted by the police in that killing, the Fresno Police Department did not release his name to the public for help in locating him. Dyer defended that decision, saying that officers believed they were close to finding him.
“We were exhausting some follow-up leads,” he said. “We had some sightings of him.”
Muhammad, who the police said had previous arrests for drug crimes and making a terroristic threat, indicated on Facebook that he had also spent time in Sacramento, where he said he attended high school.
Seyed Ali Ghazvini, the imam at the Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno, said Muhammad was not a member of the mosque and called the episode an attack against the Muslim faith, The Fresno Bee reported.
The authorities were spending time scrubbing Muhammad’s Facebook page, where he wrote often about his dislike of white people, calling them the “white devil,” and recently posted a photo of white people gathering near a lynching. He repeatedly posted, “Let black people go.”
On Monday he wrote, “My kill rate increases tremendously on the other side.” Several times in recent days, he wrote on Facebook that he was in Atlanta, where had some ties, in an apparent attempt to throw off the police.
But the police said he probably never left Fresno, an agriculture hub in Central California, and showed up near downtown on Tuesday on foot. The first shots fired at the PG&E employee were picked up by the city’s gunshot detection system and officers responded immediately, the chief said.