Muhammad Syed was named as the suspect in the killing of two Muslim men in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
As fears of a possible serial killer targeting Muslim men escalated throughout the Muslim community, police created an “evidence submission portal” where the public can submit photos or videos that could help with the case. On August 9, 2022, they announced that they had arrested Syed, 51, and charged him in the homicides of Aftab Hussein, 41, on July 26 and Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27, on August 1, according to The Albuquerque Journal.
Syed has not been charged in two other homicides that police believe are linked to the others. The other victims are Mohammad Ahmadi, 62, and Naeem Hussain, 25.
According to a news release from Albuquerque police, “Syed is being charged with two of the homicides – the July 26, 2022 murder of Aftab Hussein, and the Aug. 1, 2022 murder of Muhammad Afzaal Hussain. Detectives connected those homicides using bullet casings found at the scene. The gun used in those shootings was discovered during the overnight search of his home.” They are working with the District Attorney’s office on the other two homicides.
CNN reported that authorities believe the victims were ambushed and shot.
Mayor Tim Keller said in a news conference that police didn’t know who the killer was or how long they’d been in the city. He called the city an inclusive and welcoming city for refugees.
He said the city’s officials and residents “all condemn the senseless killings. … We want to express our solidarity with the New Mexico Muslim community.”
President Biden tweeted, “I am angered and saddened by the horrific killings of four Muslim men in Albuquerque. While we await a full investigation, my prayers are with the victims’ families, and my Administration stands strongly with the Muslim community. These hateful attacks have no place in America.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Police Believe Syed Knew the Victims & Had an ‘Interpersonal Conflict’ With Them
According to a press release from the Albuquerque police, detectives and FBI agents arrested Syed, 51. They consider him “to be the primary suspect in the recent murders of Muslim men in Albuquerque,” the press release says.
AS detectives prepared to search his home in Southeast Albuquerque on August 8, 2022, “Syed drove from the residence in the Volkswagon Jetta tht detectives believe was used in at least one of the murders. Detectives detained Syed and searched his home and the vehicle. They discovered additional evidence that further tied Syed to the murders,” the release says.
“Detectives discovered evidence that shows the offender knew the victims to some extent and an interpersonal conflict may have led to the shootings.”
“This has been a tough week for our community,” APD Chief Harold Medina said in the news release. But we all pitched in to solve these crimes and protect a community that felt like it was under attack. We came together, like we always do in Albuquerque.”
Medina said detectives will continue to work with the District Attorney’s Office on potential charges for the other two homicides – the August 5, 2022, murder of Naeem Hussain, and the Nov. 7, 2021 murder of Mohammad Zaher Ahmadi.
Authorities earlier revealed they found a vehicle of interest, which led them to the “primary suspect” in the murders of the Muslim men.
“We tracked down the vehicle believed to be involved in a recent murder of a Muslim man in Albuquerque. The driver was detained and he is our primary suspect for the murders. We will update the media later this afternoon,” Albuquerque police tweeted on August 9, 2022.
The Albuquerque Police Department released a photo of a car in connection with the investigation. “WANTED: APD releases photos of a vehicle of interest in the shootings of 4 Muslim men. If you have any information about this vehicle please contact Crime Stoppers at (505)-843-STOP,” police wrote on August 7, 2022.
The police poster with information about the car reads, “The vehicle pictured below is suspected as being used as conveyance in recent homicides of 4 Muslim men.”
It says, “APD is asking the public for assistance with the identification of the vehicle in the photos avoce. The vehicle is a dark gray/silver Volkswagen sedan with four doors and tinted windows. The vehicle appears to be a Jetta.”
In a news conference, authorities said the vehicle is either a Jetta or a Passat.
Keller said police have “some leads” but need the community’s help to catch the suspect.
“We have got to find this vehicle,” said Keller.
2. Two Pakistani Men & a Man From Afghanistan Were Murdered First
In their first news release on August 4, 2022, police wrote that “APD homicide detectives are investigating three recent murders of Muslim men that may be linked to the same offender. The FBI is assisting in the investigation.”
They added: “Detectives determined there is a connection between Monday’s murder of Muhammed Afzaal Hussain, 27, and last week’s murder of Aftab Hussein, 41. Both men are Muslim and from Pakistan. They were killed in Southeast Albuquerque, near Central Ave.”
“Muhammad was soft-spoken and kind, and quick to laugh,” Mayor John Ramon Vigil said in a news release obtained by CNN. “He was well-respected and well-liked by his coworkers and members of the community.”
The release said he had “studied law and human resource management at the University of Punjab in Pakistan,” CNN reported, and he had “both master’s and bachelor degrees in community and regional planning from the University of New Mexico.”
“Our City staff has lost a member of our family,” the mayor’s statement said, “and we all have lost a brilliant public servant who wanted to serve and improve his community.”
According to the police release, “As a result of these murders, detectives are now trying to determine whether the Nov. 7, 2021 murder of Mohammad Ahmadi, a Muslim from Afghanistan, is also related to the more recent homicides. Ahmadi was killed outside of a business he and his brother ran at 1401 San Mateo Blvd., N.W.”
“Our homicide detectives and our investigators currently believe there is a strong possibility that the same individual committed all three of these crimes,” said Kyle Hartsock, deputy commander of APD’s Criminal Investigations Division. “While we won’t go into why we think that, there’s one strong commonality in all of our victims, their race and religion.
3. A Fourth Muslim Man Was Murdered on August 6, 2022
A fourth murder occurred two days after the police news conference.
“APD homicide detectives are investigating an overnight murder of a Muslim man that may be linked to three similar murders in Albuquerque. The FBI is assisting in the investigation,” the press release said.
“APD officers in the Southeast Area Command responded Friday just before midnight to reports of a shooting in the area of Truman St. and Grand Ave., N.E. An adult male was located and found to be deceased. Homicide detectives were called to the scene to start an investigation. Investigators learned the victim, believed to be in his mid-20s, is Muslim and a native from South Asia. His identity has not been positively confirmed.”
His name was Naseem Hussain.
“Investigators believe Friday’s murder may be connected to three recent murders of Muslim men also from South Asia,” they wrote.
4. Police Vowed to Keep the Muslim Community Safe After the Deaths
The police chief, Harold Medina, said in a news conference on August 6, 2022, that another young man part of Muslim community was murdered.
“We believe this death is related to those shootings,” he said of the other three deaths.
The chief said he had called the president of the Islamic Center of New Mexico. He said police are working to ensure the safety of the Muslim community, adding that federal agencies are involved, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Police listed overtime caps for officers and are doing neighborhood patrols. They are asking the Muslim community to stay vigilant.
“I want to reassure our friends in the Muslim community that we are making these crimes a top priority for the department,” Chief Medina said in a news release. “I appreciate the assistance of the FBI and the District Attorney as we partner to solve these crimes.”
5. The Governor Called Them ‘Targeted Killings’
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham wrote on Twitter that she was sending more police to help investigate the“targeted killings.”
“The targeted killings of Muslim residents of Albuquerque is deeply angering and wholly intolerable,” she wrote on Twitter.
“We will not stop in our pursuit of justice for the victims and their families and are bringing every resource to bear to apprehend the killer or killers — and we WILL find them.”