Chapel Hill police chief expresses ‘sincere regret’ over Muslim murders message

Hours after a man pleaded guilty Wednesday to killing three Muslims in their Chapel Hill home four years ago, the town’s police chief expressed regret over his department’s initial characterization of the case.

Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue said he wished the department had recognized that the deaths of Deah Barakat, his wife Yusor Abu-Salha and her sister Razan Abu-Salha were about more than a parking dispute. Craig Hicks pleaded guilty to their murders Wednesday in Durham County Superior Court.

Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue Harry Lynch hlynch@newsobserver.com

“What we all know now and what I wish we had said four years ago is that the murders of Deah, Yusor, and Razan were about more than simply a parking dispute,” Blue said in a statement.

“The man who committed these murders undoubtedly did so with a hateful heart,” Blue said. “And the murders represented the taking of three promising lives by someone who clearly chose not to see the humanity and the goodness in them. To the Abu-Salha and Barakat families, we extend our sincere regret that any part of our message all those years ago added to the pain you experienced through the loss of Our Three Winners. And, to the Muslim members of our community, know that you are heard, seen, and valued.”

Blue then thanked the Durham County District Attorney’s office, which prosecuted the case, and the officers and the emergency personnel who responded to the incident.

“I personally want to express my appreciation to all of the officers, investigators, and other first responders who had any involvement in this case — through the initial response or as part of its investigation,” he said. “We hope that today represents an opportunity to look forward and to honor Deah, Yusor, and Razan through continued support and love for every person in our community.”

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Joe Johnson is a reporter covering breaking stories for The News & Observer. He most recently covered towns in western Wake County and Chatham County. Before that, he covered high school sports for The Herald-Sun.